I adore irony. Truly, I’m a big fan of it. Not much pleases me more than a superb example of the ironic. For me, one of the most delicious bits of irony occurred back in 1996, when the lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s Ironic revealed that absolutely nothing she sang about in that song was, in fact, ironic. Which, delightfully, made it ironic…
Poor Alanis. But she’s not the only one to get the whole this-is-soooo-ironic! thing all wrong. Partly because, when you look it up, there are five categories of irony, each with its own flavor, and most dictionaries define them in an absurdly confusing manner.
Which is pretty ironic when you consider that the meaning of the word definition is the act of making distinct, or clear…
And even more ironic when you discover that the word irony derives from the Latin word ironia, meaning feigned ignorance.
But I digress…
Another primary reason that irony is not so easily understood is that our language is always changing – often due to our interpretation and misinterpretation of the words we use. And because countless idioms and situations have been mistakenly labeled as ironic for so long when they actually weren’t, a new, secondary definition was forced. THE BOTTOM LINE: we literally changed the definition of irony by consistently using the word incorrectly.
How fucking ironic.
Because of this, what’s ironic now widely varies. While standard literary examples such as a fish that drowns or an unsinkable ship that sinks still hold front and center, verbal irony is sometimes nothing more than sarcasm that’s thinly veiled as a piss-poor simile: pleasant as a root canal or soft as concrete.
As a fan of classic irony, this makes me wanna rip out my hair. (Which is a tiny bit ironic, since I don’t have much hair.) Because in its purest form, irony is bliss. It subtly reveals itself, to often transform a mundane, everyday situation into a delightful dose of magic. Like when:
You’re writing an article about punctuation and the word HYPHENATED autowraps and becomes hyphenated.
You discover that the man in charge of your store’s meat department is a vegetarian.
Your TO DO list includes creating a TO DO list.
You’re invited to a two-hour webinar entitled, Conducting Highly Effective, Super-Fast Webinars.
You want to watch the TV Guide Channel to find out what’s on TV, but you don’t know which channel the TV Guide Channel is on, because you can’t find the TV Guide Channel.
You receive an email coupon for printer paper, but you can’t print the coupon because your printer is out of paper.
You must walk 15 minutes to the nearest pharmacy for a Band-Aid to cover a foot blister you got from walking.
You need to get to Staples to purchase staples.
All delicious snippets of unquestionable, unadulterated irony. From real life. Mine, not ironically.
But a black fly in my Chardonnay? Sorry, Alanis, that’s not irony – it’s just a big fat bummer.
Unless, of course, you’re an exterminator.
Or a vintner who’s grapes were recently sprayed for insects.
Then it’s irony.
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