Isn’t it Ironic?
Last week, a writer friend posted a question about irony on his timeline. As I often do, I decided to try to figure out the answer and provided several posts regarding the subject and links and basically the conclusion that his sentence was not, in fact, ironic. His response was to delete the post and send me a message that he didn’t know what he had done to piss me off. You see, it was ironic that he wasn’t really asking about irony, but I interpreted it as a real question and replied as though it was.
Irony is one of the most vexing concepts to grasp because it is dependent both on the person speaking or writing and on the perception of the person on the receiving end of the idea. Irony basically means that something is the opposite of what you expect or what the writer or speaker meant. Very often, sarcasm and coincidence are mistaken for irony.
Interestingly, Alanis Morrisette gave several examples in her song “Ironic” that were not irony at all. Rain on your wedding day is not ironic. It is a crappy coincidence. A free ride when y0u’ve already paid? Just bad timing. An old man turned ninety-eight, won the lottery and died the next day? A morbid coincidence. A black fly in your chardonnay is just gross. Need I go on?
The ultimate irony of the song “Ironic” is that it is ironic because it contains no irony. Still confused? You are in good company. In fact, there is a website called Is It Ironic? that allows website visitors to vote on submissions and whether or not they are are actually ironic. None of the examples that I have seen have received a 100% vote in one clear direction, and many are 50/50.
By now, you may like an actual example of irony. Try this: A man looks out the window and sees that is raining heavily and the sidewalks and streets are flooded and muddy and says, “what a lovely day for a walk.” His remark is ironic because what he is looking at suggests the opposite. Unless… he happens to own a new pair of waders and loves walking in the rain and mud. Then it is not.
So, is it ironic that irony is so difficult to define? No, unfortunately it is just vexing.