Isn't it ironic?

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timonan
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Isn't it ironic?

Postby timonan » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:53 pm UTC

The fact that this forum doesn't have a discussion on irony, one of the most pleasurable and eccentric forms of communication, is a bit...well...what's the word I'm looking for?

Possible topics for discussion:

1) Your favorite examples of irony
2) What is irony, exactly?
3) The purpose of irony in communication.
4) Things that are claimed to be ironic, but actually aren't (cf. Alanis Morissette)...which, ironically, makes them ironic.
Last edited by timonan on Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:56 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby 22/7 » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:16 pm UTC

1) Was watching the Daily Show yesterday or the day before and saw a bit about Fox News condemning paparazzi for intruding into peoples' privacy and comparing it to their regular ambushes on political (and sometimes regular) celebrities.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby goofy » Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:31 pm UTC

I think the Alanis Morissette song really is about irony, at least according to this definition from the OED:

2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby 22/7 » Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:57 pm UTC

goofy wrote:I think the Alanis Morissette song really is about irony, at least according to this definition from the OED:

2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things.
Lots of things in that song aren't irony, like rain on your wedding day. A free ride when you've already paid, that's irony, though not very good irony and also quite unlikely.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby goofy » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:27 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
goofy wrote:I think the Alanis Morissette song really is about irony, at least according to this definition from the OED:

2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things.
Lots of things in that song aren't irony, like rain on your wedding day.


Well, I think that is irony according to that definition.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby TaintedDeity » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

Why shouldn;t rain be expected on your wedding day?
There's every chance there will be rain (unless you've been clever and planned it otherwise, but even then there's a chance of rain)

The song is silly and uses the widely thought, but wrong, definition of irony.
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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby goofy » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:48 pm UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:Why shouldn;t rain be expected on your wedding day?


It shouldn't rain on your wedding day; rain on your wedding day is a mockery of the fitness of things.

What about these definitions:

2a. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs (AHD4)

incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (MW)

What am I missing? What exactly is the wrong defintion of irony? Is it what is refleced in this usage note?

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby Pa-Patch » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:50 pm UTC

At this rate, the definition of irony will probably broaden to include all those amusingly coincidental occurences that don't really have any other single word to describe them. Language evolves, and that's how most of the population already uses it.
Last edited by Pa-Patch on Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby Moo » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:51 pm UTC

@goofy:
?? Are you trolling? Rain is a thing that happens quite frequently. It tends to happen on days all the time. Wedding days are also days. So rain may fall on that day, too. Only if you were getting married in a desert or during a drought, when rain is VERY MUCH NOT EXPECTED, would it be ironic.

edit: oops. Dessert != desert
Last edited by Moo on Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:01 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby TaintedDeity » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:59 pm UTC

Irony is not an amusing coincidence.
Irony is an amusing event that is not expected.
It would be nice if it didn't rain, no, but it should be expected.
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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby goofy » Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:03 pm UTC

Moo wrote:@goofy:
?? Are you trolling? Rain is a thing that happens quite frequently. It tends to happen on days all the time. Wedding days are also days. So rain may fall on that day, too. Only if you were getting married in a dessert or during a drought, when rain is VERY MUCH NOT EXPECTED, would it be ironic.


OK, thanks. So this example is not seen as irony because it is simply coincidental, and not some sort of statement about the fitness of things. I think that perhaps this could depend on your point of view, tho. For instance, if you moved your wedding because rain was forecast, and it rained anyway, then the AHD usage panel would see that as ironic. Or maybe it rained because there was a wedding.

I think this is worth reading.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby Mavketl » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:08 pm UTC

Ed Byrne might be able to shine some light on the Alanis Morissette song. :wink:
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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby diotimajsh » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:58 pm UTC

My take on Alanis Morissette's song is that she doesn't use the word "irony" correctly, which is, itself, ironic. So it's sort of meta-irony. (edit: Yeah, like what Ed Byrne says.)

I've been thinking about "incongruity between expectation and reality"; and while that's true at the widest level, I think it leaves out something important. There's something more to it when we're talking about "cosmic irony"--as opposed to dramatic irony or rhetorical irony--which I believe is the way most people (mis)use the word. Cosmic irony occurs when events subvert or undermine expectations in a strangely fitting way, almost as though Fate were laughing at us. A number of dictionaries include "poignant" in their definitions for this type of irony, and I think that's what they're getting at.

(This bears similarities to humor and absurdity, in my opinion: it's not funny when something merely bizarre/incongruous happens, it has to be bizarre/incongruous in a particularly humorous way. Otherwise it's just random. (Randomness can be funny itself, but again, only in the right contexts, where its juxtaposed against something in an appropriate way). I think irony is like humor too in that there's only so much you can explain through words--you really have to just "feel it" or experience it, and for someone who doesn't understand humor at all, no amount of explanation will help (E.g., Data from Star Trek and the hero from Stranger In a Strange Land before laughter finally made sense to them).)

For a relevant example, take proper word usage: normally, we expect (or at least hope) that other people will use words correctly when they communicate. However, it is not ironic when just any old person fails to do so; even though it goes against our expectations, it's not in a striking or poignant way. It might be a very tiny bit ironic if. say, a linguist or lexicographer (dictionary maker) used a word incorrectly; since here we'd expect that someone who devotes time in particular to understanding language and words would have a better grasp on their subject; but I still wouldn't call that irony, depending on circumstances.

A better example would be a lexicographer who specifically doesn't know what the word "lexicographer" means. I think here we definitely expect that someone who compiles word definitions should at least know the word for their own occupation, and it's amusing or striking in a peculiar way if he/she does not. I think it's ironic too if a dictionary doesn't contain the words "dictionary", "lexicon", or "lexicography"; whereas it's not ironic when a dictionary leaves out other, less-related words--despite the fact that we expect dictionaries to be as comprehensive as possible.

I do think it's ironic that so many people misunderstand irony; whereas it's not ironic that so many people misunderstand, e.g., the theory of relativity. It might be ironic if the inventor of relativity, Einstein, misunderstood his own theory; but I don't know, that seems less ironic to me than other examples.

It's further ironic if, in this post, I've misunderstood and thus misused the word myself, all while saying that most people misunderstand irony. It becomes all the more so when we consider that I gave the misuse of words as my clarifying examples.
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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby timonan » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:13 pm UTC

Yeah, I agree. Irony should have something distinctive about it that seperates it from simple misfortune. If you get in a car accident because you were distracted, that's unfortunate. If you get in a car accident because you were trying to put your seat belt on, that's ironic, because the very thing that is supposed to keep you safe is the thing that led to your accident. If a man loses his head by guillotine, that's unfortunate. If it's the inventor of the guillotine that becomes a victim of his own invention, that's ironic.

You can say Alanis uses irony in her song, but it's not the satisfying definition of irony; it is mostly a list of unfortunate events. Sure, if I need a knife, and there's ten-thousand spoons, that's very frustrating and unfortunate. If I'm at the birthday party of Joe Ginsu to celebrate the release of his new kitchen blade, and I need a knife, and there's ten-thousand spoons, that's ironic. If there's rain on my wedding day, everyone's bummed out. If the pastor says "May God shine his light on you as a blessing upon your wedding today" and it starts to rain, that's ironic. It's the twist in the story, as if there's a devious perpetrator in the heavens who is throwing these humorous contradictions together, that makes a situation ironic.

Sure, you can call unfortunate events ironic because there's a difference between what you expect and what actually happens, but that's not the difference that irony is trying to capture. The true irony in Alanis's song is the irony she wasn't actually going for, typified by her line "And yeah, I really do think" in a song in which she might have done well to think it through just a bit more. What is more ironic than a song called "Ironic" that is ironic because it isn't ironic?

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:03 pm UTC

timonan wrote:The true irony in Alanis's song is the irony she wasn't actually going for, typified by her line "And yeah, I really do think" in a song in which she might have done well to think it through just a bit more. What is more ironic than a song called "Ironic" that is ironic because it isn't ironic?


When this sort of meta-irony occurs on another forum I inhabit, I like to say "it's like nuptial pluviation". I'm trying to promote the phrase, but it hasn't really caught on yet. Oh well. :)

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby Velifer » Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:44 pm UTC

timonan wrote:What is more ironic than a song called "Ironic" that is ironic because it isn't ironic?


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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby Supergrunch » Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:26 am UTC

Velifer wrote:
timonan wrote:What is more ironic than a song called "Ironic" that is ironic because it isn't ironic?


Yo Dawg meme in 3... 2... 1...

Yo dawg, I wrote you a song called Irony that isn't actually ironic, so it can ironically be describing purported irony without being ironic.

Hmm, I'm sure someone can come up with a better formulation that that.

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Re: Isn't it ironic?

Postby BrainMagMo » Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Supergrunch wrote:
Velifer wrote:
timonan wrote:What is more ironic than a song called "Ironic" that is ironic because it isn't ironic?


Yo Dawg meme in 3... 2... 1...

Yo dawg, I wrote you a song called Irony that isn't actually ironic, so it can ironically be describing purported irony without being ironic.

Hmm, I'm sure someone can come up with a better formulation that that.

I believe you committed a fail, good sir.

Yo dawg, I heard you like irony, so I put irony in your "Ironic", so you could be ironic while you sing "Ironic".
ironic no longer looks like a word.


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