What Is Irony? (With Examples)
Recently I was walking and talking with my co-worker, who happens to be a freelance writer and aspiring journalist. We were talking about the fact that our employers were providing us with a Thanksgiving lunch the day after Thanksgiving, and she said, “It’s so ironic!’’ – all emphasis and drawing-out of syllables possible used on the last word.
This is a smart girl I’m talking about. She’s a college graduate and has done her fair share of writing and reporting. And even so, she doesn’t know the definition of irony.
Merriam-Webster defines irony as:
1: a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other’s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony
2: a) the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
b) a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c) an ironic expression or utterance
3: a) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result; an event or result marked by such incongruity
b) incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony
A simple way of putting it is that irony usually signals a difference between the appearance of things and reality. For instance, here is how Wikipedia defines it: “Ironic statements (verbal irony) often convey a meaning exactly opposite from their literal meaning. In ironic situations (situational irony), actions often have an effect exactly opposite from what is intended.”
Confusion is such that there is even a website, IsItIronic.com, where you can post your own question about whether or not something is ironic. Readers will cast their own vote – you can see the percentages of the votes – and the website will provide the final yes or no verdict.
Here are some examples of irony (or the lack of):
Is it ironic that I posted a video about how boring and useless Facebook is on Facebook?
Reader’s Verdict: 93% NOT IRONIC; 7% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.
Is it ironic that the name of Britain’s biggest dog (until it died recently) was Tiny?
Reader’s Verdict: 75% IRONIC; 25% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.
Is it ironic that I can’t go to church because I have a theology test to study for?
Reader’s Verdict: 95% NOT IRONIC; 5% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.
Is it ironic that someone steps into a puddle and you make fun of them… and the next thing you know – YOU step in one!?
Reader’s Verdict: 94% IRONIC; 6% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.
Has Alanis Morissette spoiled irony for us forever? Perhaps my generation is just in recovery from her 1995 lyrics. What do you think – do you understand the meaning of irony? Do people around you?
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