Obviously I think it´s meant to be used sarcastically. Michael´s example was when he posted somewhere that one of his favorite books is Phantom of the Opera, and someone corrected him saying: that´s a musical, not a book. His response: Oh, really? http://bit.ly/YzAEs0
Then he went on to tell me about how he read Phantom in its original French, despite having the movie Amelie as his only other prior French experience. He said he had to look up every few words, but really enjoyed making linguistic discoveries (we're obviously compatible). His most interesting discovery: villain and vilify are not etymologically related. ! Who knew? In my mind I thought for sure vilify was to make a villain of someone (when in fact it means "to make vile"), but as I typed it just now, I realized the lack of double-l in vilify should've been the dead giveaway.
Here are the the OED entries:
c.1300, "base or low-born rustic," from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. villain, from M.L. villanus "farmhand," from L. villa "country house" (see villa).
"The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows: 'inhabitant of a farm; peasant; churl, boor; clown; miser; knave, scoundrel.' Today both Fr. vilain and Eng. villain are used only in a pejorative sense." [Klein]
Meaning "character in a novel, play, etc. whose evil motives or actions help drive the plot" is from 1822.
mid-15c., "to lower in worth or value," from L.L. vilificare "to make cheap or base," from L. vilis "cheap, base" (see vile) + root of facere "to make" (see factitious). Meaning "to slander, speak evil of" is first recorded 1590s
What I'm still unsure of is why this discovery happened while reading French. Villain in French is méchant and vilify is diffamer or calomnier. I'm guessing he happened across some other words--don't know which ones.