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
Here is Google’s definition for irony:
the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
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?
Irony versus Sarcasm
Sarcasm is when your words mean one thing when taken literally – but, in fact, you mean the opposite. It’s normally used when you’re annoyed about something.
- “Oh, great!” – when there’s a huge line at the coffee shop
- “That’s just perfect” – when the printer jams yet again.
- “Lovely weather today” – when it’s pouring with rain.
Some people would describe these as forms of verbal irony (because they say the opposite to the intended meaning) – but it’s important to recognize that they’re not examples of an ironic situation. It isn’t “ironic” that there’s a line at the coffee shop … just unfortunate.
Sarcasm also normally involves mocking or even attacking someone – or at least expressing irritation. Irony tends to come into play more often in literary ways, to make people laugh, or to heighten the drama of a situation.
Irony versus Unfortunate
While a situation that’s ironic often is unfortunate, these words definitely aren’t synonyms. An ironic situation is one where an attempt to cause a desired outcome actually results in an undesired outcome, or one where something happens that’s opposite to what you’d expect.
- If you’re late for work because you lost your keys yet again, that’s unfortunate. (But not ironic.)
- If you’re late for work because, in an attempt to be on time, you put your keys somewhere safe and then forgot where they were, that’s ironic. (And also unfortunate.)
- If the printer jams at work when you’re in a big rush, that’s unfortunate. (But not ironic – unless your rushing caused the jam.)
- If the printer jams at work and you discover it’s because of the “fix” that your colleague performed to stop it from jamming, that’s ironic. (And unfortunate.)
- If your friend calls round to see you with an important package, but you’re out for the first time that week, that’s unfortunate. (But not ironic.)
- If your friend calls round to see you, but you’re out because you’re driving to their house to retrieve your package, that’s ironic.
Irony versus Paradox
A paradox occurs when something can’t logically work: it contradicts itself.
For instance, the statement “I am lying right now” is a paradox – either the speaker is lying (and so the statement is true … meaning they’re not lying) or they aren’t lying (but they can’t be telling the truth, either…)
Another example is the “grandfather paradox” in time travel – if you go back and kill your grandfather, you’ll never have existed … but then no-one would have killed your grandfather, so you must have existed … and so on.
Ironic situations aren’t paradoxes. They’re perfectly possible – though they might be unlikely.
For each sentence, decide whether the situation being described is ironic or not.
207 thoughts on “What Is Irony? (With Examples)”
Mmmmh . . .
I agree with Guest Author’s coworker, who found it ironic to have a Thanksgiving lunch post-Thanksgiving. Perhaps the real thanks was that the holiday was finally over and she could eat pumpkin pie without gratitude or remorse?
I also find some irony in the first and third “verdicts.” I thought all four examples demonstrated irony.
All of the above seem to fit into one or more of the dictionary definitions.
Am I missing the non-irony, or is some irony being missed?
I do know that young children don’t understand irony. They have no definition for it.
I’m going off to ponder . . .
Thank you, Guest Author, for raising some questions.
Yeah, I agree. Some of Alanis’s lyrics are hard to swallow as irony (yes, that was a jagged little pill reference), but I too disagree with the reader assessments. Like this one:
“Is it ironic that I posted a video about how boring and useless Facebook is on Facebook?”
Yes, ironic, definitely, unless you truly made a boring and useless video and put it on Facebook to hide it. If you expected your video to be seen and enjoyed (or to server a purpose) then, yes, that is irony all the way.
And is ironic synonymous with sarcastic? (dictionaries seem to think so)
I once read a Beetle Bailey Cartoon strip that really got irony “clear” to me 🙂
I couldn’t find a link to the exact strip I have in mind, but here’s the gist:
Sarge (looking at Zero’s crumpled shirt): That’s we very well pressed shirt you have on there!
Zero, the company simpleton (looking at his shirt): Looks crumpled to me!
Sarge: You don’t understand irony do you??
Next panel has Zero busy ironing his shirt, saying “I’ll show how who doesn’t understand irony!”
I’m also college-educated, but I’m also perplexed with this whole irony thing. With the 4 ironic/non-ironic examples given, I got them exactly opposite of the “official” verdicts. My personal jury is still out on the post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner thing. I’m thinking it’s not ironic, it’s just a misnomer. I remember the whole fuss when Alanis’ song came out, with people saying how it was or wasn’t ironic, etc. You know, what I end up doing is avoiding the whole subject! I never use the word (for fear of using it inappropriately) and I don’t pass judgement (judgment) on people who do. Until the concept is clear to me, I will continue to avoid using the word. And I’m sorry to say that (perhaps ironically??) this post has not clarifiied things for me!
I think part of the problem is that people have different perceptions as to the extent of the difference between appearance and reality (using Guest Author’s simplified definition). For example–I can see taking the position that “I can’t go to church because I have a theology exam to study for” isn’t ironic–because there is no appearance clearly contraposed to the reality. But if the sentence were “I chose to study for my theology exam rather than go to church,” I think there clearly is a difference between the appearance (I am a devout person who values religious practice) and the reality (I am willing to forego religious practice in the pursuit of good grades in my religious studies program). So I have a problem with putting the question up for popular vote.
It occurs to me to wonder–granted that in fact the examples given do not constitute irony. What are they? They all involve a recognizable cognitive disconnect. What should we call them?
Oh, and Guest Author–unless your coworker managed to combine her college course of study with a shortened high school program, she is almost certainly not a girl. Unless, of course, as a matter of personal style you routinely use “boy” as your preferred term for males over 18.
I don’t think that Facebook sentence is ironic. Facebook might be boring and useless, and yet be the most popular social network around. Hence if the author of the video want some exposure, the best place to post it would still be Facebook.
In other words, Facebook being popular doesn’t imply it can’t be boring and useless.
Daniel–by posting the video on Facebook in order to gain exposure, the author may not be contradicting the claim that Facebook is boring, but definitely IS contradicting the claim that Facebook is useless. That is the disconnect between appearance and reality in that case.
I think it is fully ironic that someone would offer you a Thanksgiving lunch on the one day of the year that your are most likely to have your own Thanksgiving leftovers in your brown paper bag, yes.
And I find irony in all of the examples given, also.
Hi , can you please confirm if the sentence mentioned in the beginning ” the procrastinator’s meeting has been postponed – is this an irony or not ?I think it is ….
I do believe your friends your friends remarks have both an ironic and sarcastic touch. The appearance of giving thanks for the end of the high stress period of organizing to give thanks borders towards irony.
Such are words. They are our slaves and masters ironically?
to thebluebird11: How ironic! You just said “…I will continue to avoid using the word.” And then you used it in the next sentence…
In Australia and Britain, a commonly-held notion – or prejudice really – is that Americans have an impoverished sense of irony. Without meaning to be rude, I wonder how much truth there is in this. And how much does a cultural trait like this might contribute to the difficulty in grasping the word’s meaning? (I suspect little and that most Americans probably do know irony when they hear it, even if they’re not always able to label it as such. Equally, Aussies and Brits can be just as ignorant. Pot. Kettle. Black.)
Michael Corey—I have you covered in that my mother was Australian and my father British. In my experience, my father had a heightened sense of irony. Maybe that’s why I laugh so hard at Monty Python. My mother didn’t get it at all. My father saw the ridiculous in everything, and the contradiction in ALL human endeavors. Most people just do not recognize how much they contradict themselves daily. Thus the popularity of Ricky Gervais and the Office.
It seems that irony is the incongruity between an expected outcome and the actual outcome.
In no way is irony related to or similar to sarcasm.
Irony can be humorous or it can be tragic. For example, it is a tragic irony that Hamlet, thinking his father is hiding behind the curtain runs his sword through him, only to learn that it is the father of the woman he was about to marry. Thus, finally finding the courage to act, his action is grossly misdirected and he kills an innocent who would have been his father-in-law; a man of whom he is most fond. This tragedy is compounded when his betrothed goes mad and eventually kills herself.
All of this because he made an assumption about who was hiding behind the curtain. Even four hundred years ago they knew what happens when you assume.
Shakespeare knew irony very well and used it to great effect.
Saying “great weather we are having today” when it is raining cats and dogs seems to me more like sarcasm than irony. However, commenting on how beautiful the weather is half an hour before a tornado rips through your neighborhood would be ironic.
In the first case the comment is intentionally opposed to reality and in the second case an expectation is set and then a far different reality results. This is a subtle difference, but I think it is what distinguishes sarcasm from irony. In sarcasm a person makes a statement intentionally contrary to reality, usually for the sake of dark humor, and in irony a person acts on a belief that they later discover is mistaken.
Interesting topic and something one does not think about too often. Excellent food for thought!
@M.Corey and Garrison:
It’s OK with me if Aussies and Brits think we state-siders have an impoverished sense of irony. Personally I don’t feel an emptiness in my soul just because I’m still not clear on the concept. I understand sarcasm when I hear it and can dish it too. I understand tragedy and comedy (and have been on both ends of both). To take it further and talk about tragic irony, specifically the Hamlet example, was very interesting. I definitely comprehend the tragedy there, and I see the irony beyond that. However, I know that people call many things “ironic” when in fact they are NOT. These things are unfortunate, or tragic, or funny, or incorrect, or something else…even, as I said before, just a case of a misnomer.
We studied Shakespeare (a Brit!) in high school, but you know how that is…we’d all rather have been gossiping over french fries and diet soda than studying The Bard. So most of it went over our heads (or perhaps in one ear and out the other), and today I probably could not even tell you a single plot. So maybe the Brits (and Aussies?) have mastered irony better than we Americans. They’ve certainly had a longer go at it! 🙂
Dear guest author,
It is definitely ironic that a guest author wrote a long-winding post about what is and is not ironic, while making it reasonably apparent that they do not have a clear idea of which is which and what is what, when it comes to what is and what is not ironic. (I almost choked on that mouthful.) Hmm, I wonder: It all seems a tad ironic to me.
Perhaps it is best for their sake that the guest author did not reveal their name. In my opinion, the person is clearly an intelligent person who got caught up in a meandering warren of the meanings of ironic.
I must say, the same happens to me sometimes, but it usually happens in the dank, dark, secret recesses of my mind and I choose not make my befuddlement public. You all will be the judge of whether I have managed to avoid such a pitfall here.
It seems to me YourDictionary.com does an exceptional job of handling the sundry meanings of ironic in a concise manner.
Here is wishing a Merry Christmas and a Holy Nativity of Christ feast to all.
Mensch Myer, vergessen!
Oh, and Guest Author–unless your coworker managed to combine her college course of study with a shortened high school program, she is almost certainly not a girl. Unless, of course, as a matter of personal style you routinely use “boy” as your preferred term for males over 18.
In Middle English, the term “girl” was applied to children (of both sexes). In modern English, it’s become limited to females, but only secondarily to children, unlike “boy”. Adult women often refer to themselves as “girls”, even in their nineties (and, in a more limited context, to adult males as “boys”, e.g., a woman might say her husband is having “a night out with the boys” without implying he’s a pædophile…but you’re less likely hear a male say that).
What’s supposed to be magic about 18, though? I’d stop calling females “girls” in the “child” sense long before they were 18…
F’in-A , Bubba!
Peter–your points are valid. However, the generation which referred to itself as “girls” into the grey-hair ages is now all pretty much grey haired. I’m at the bottom end of that generation, but I do not refer to myself in that manner, and I would find it deeply offensive if a male colleague were to refer to me as a “smart girl.” As you almost certainly recognize, this is a by-product of the struggle that changed perceptions of gender roles in the 60s and 70s. “Girl” was routinely used, by men, to refer to any adult woman in a business setting, while “boy” was used to refer to an adult male only in a handful of idioms such as the one you reference.
I use 18 as the cut-off because that is the age of majority in most states. Between the ages of roughly 12 and 18, however, it can be difficult to know how to refer to someone of either gender. Most people would not refer to a high-school junior as a woman–or a man.
In any event, my point is that if you use “girl” to describe a female in a given situation, but do not use “boy” to describe a male in the same situation, it is–however unintentionally–a put-down.
This is getting well off topic, but:
As with “ma’am” which was discussed in a recent blog entry, I think it’s important to be aware of the possible negative connotation of calling any adult a “girl,” and you’ve made it clear that it is a put-down to YOU, but I know for a fact that it is not universally so by any stretch, and I doubt it would read as a put down in this context to the vast majority of the audience.
ApK: Well, yes, it is OT at this point, so I’ll say this and then shut up, regardless of any response. I disagree profoundly with your perception that most women in the workplace would not find it a putdown to be described by a colleague as “a smart girl.” Admittedly, we don’t know the gender of the colleague, and just as an adult male African-Americans might find it less offensive to be referred to as a boy if the speaker were of African origin, women can probably stomach being called “girl” by other women better than by men. But there are plenty of us to whom it is pejorative regardless of who uses it.
On reflection, I realize this may be one of those “think about your audience” issues. The use of such a term in what should–given the nature of the venue–be a carefully written, thoughtfully edited, post in which each word and phrase is given some attention before reaching the final draft detracts substantially, to my mind, from the credibility and reliability of what follows. And I do not believe I am alone in that.
Hog wash! Who cares, Kathryn.
I am finding fewer and fewer people are concerned enough about being called a “girl,” or a “boy” for that matter, to exhibit such a gross display of humanistic correctness as is evidenced in your comment; other, that is, than some of the feminists among us, and their concern, where it exists, is based on a concern for their self-worth.
Indeed, why, as long as the terms were used in a spirit of camaraderie, would someone take it as an affront worthy of note to be called a “girl” or a “boy,” where it not for a deficiency in their view of their own self-worth. Such would constitute a self-inflicted insult.
Fortunately, our society seems finally to be on the way to healing the wounds inflicted by [in your words] “the struggle that changed perceptions of gender roles in the 60s and 70s.” The narrow view of the gender rolls of those earlier times are thankfully changed forever as a result of that struggle, despite the sometimes beastly, hurtful acts committed in its name. Now we are thankfully in the midst of a course correction—historically, such course corrections always follow—that allows men and women to assume their emancipated gender rolls as granted by their Creator. Such course corrections are a part of the natural flow of societal growth brought about over time, due in large measure to the insights of people of faith; that is to say, people who aspire to a higher ideal than they can hope to attain sans the aid of a higher power.
After all is said and done, girls and women, and boys and men, have their natural rolls to play as absolute equals in life; e.g., men inseminate and women bear the inseminated fruit of their wombs. The roll of women in this case is far superior to that of men. Men do play a superior roll in some aspects of life, but it remains that if all men were to die tomorrow, women could and surely would regenerate the race of man (or mankind or Homo sapiens, as you will) for the good of the world.
If you have read this far, Kathryn, you now know this retort to your thesis is not a put-down of women, nor is it a put-down of men: both genders are absolute equals in life with absolutely equal rights.
Perhaps it is ironic that a discussion of irony should devolve into a vacuous argument over the current state of politically correct think-speak.
From now on I propose we dispense with gender exclusive pronouns and refer to everyone inclusively as “she/he/it” which can be commonly accepted in the abbreviated form of: s/h/it.
I am SO down with that LOL
Where were your pithy solutions when the post from a week or some ago, about the phrase “that’s so gay,” devolved into a message board for gay dating or something!!
@Garrison: You sir are a card.
Kathryn: I don’t think it’s only “grey-hairs”; my sister was telling me a story about “a girl at work” last week, etc. She’s 38 (my sister, not the co-worker). This is not in the US…but I saw a US TV show recently where a 30-something responded to the suggestion that she wouldn’t be able to do something with “Why? Because I’m a girl?”
Lawrence: *speechless* (I’m not sure whether you’re insane or joking, but either way it’s in bad taste)
When I was in my late twenties felt totally patronised by my boss calling me a lad. Some of us get over our fragile egos, and some do not. At fifty three I wish more people would call me lad or boy and cease calling me “an old coot”!!!
Peter, I can only surmise from your vacuous comment that humanistic correctness is turning your mind into an inane waste land. I don’t allow your good mind to succumb to such malevolent forces.
Whoops, I meant to say:
Peter, I can only surmise from your vacuous comment that humanistic correctness is turning your mind into an inane waste land. Don’t allow your good mind to succumb to such malevolent forces.
Here’s what I use when describing irony:
1. The truth is different than what is perceived.
2. The outcome is different than what is expected.
Kudos for the Hamlet reference. Hurrah for Shakespeare!
@Precise Edit: This whole subject is still clear as mud to me. I am no expert, but it would seem to me that just because truth is different from perception, and/or outcome doesn’t meet expectations, does not mean something is ironic. There must be some other twist that makes an ordinary misperception, or an unexpected outcome, take on the cloak of irony.
Again, I see it clearly with the Hamlet example, because in this case, he killed the person he would LEAST want to kill. So, just because someone wants, or is led to expect, sunny weather for his wedding, doesn’t mean that rain on his wedding day is ironic. It might be messy, inconvenient, annoying, or any number of other things (including perhaps a bad omen), but it is not ironic. (Sorry, Alanis).
Precise Edit, you are usually on the mark with your comments, so see if you can fine-tune your definitions for me!
I’ll try, but be warned: I’m not feeling very literate at the moment. Still…
The Hamlet scene is not an example of irony because he killed the person he least desired to kill. What makes it ironic is that he thought he was killing someone else. His perception of who was behind the curtain was incorrect, and the action he took led to a consequence he didn’t intend.
From the Princeton word web:
1. “humorously sarcastic or mocking”
This is often considered comedic irony, which is making a statement that is obviously not true in order to convey a specific meaning. Thus, it’s irony when someone comments on the beautiful day when, in fact, the weather is miserable. The message being conveyed is contrary to the statement being made.
2. “characterized by often poignant difference or incongruity between what is expected and what actually is”
This is often considered tragic irony, which is expecting one thing and getting another. This is the Hamlet example.
Perhaps you are struggling not with understanding “irony” but with integrating these definitions with your existing, personal definition of irony, created through exposure to the use (and misuse) of the word irony. But if that’s the case, you are definately in good company–And I don’t just mean Alanis’s.
@ Precise Edit:
“What makes it ironic is that he thought he was killing someone else. His perception of who was behind the curtain was incorrect, and the action he took led to a consequence he didn’t intend.”
Yes, exactly. And I understand “tragic irony.”
However, someone saying “We’re having lovely weather” when in fact we are not, is sarcasm, not irony. I’m sure there is a difference between the two. Even saying “We’re having lovely weather” and then getting hit by a tornado 30 minutes later doesn’t seem to warrant the term irony, to me. It seems, you know, unfortunate, accidental, tragic, coincidental, or something, but not really ironic.
Maybe it’s irony when the ramifications of the [unexpected/undesired] outcome are really significant, far-reaching, etc. I mean, let’s take the tornado example. If in fact someone blithely stated “Lovely weather we’re having,” and in fact was ignorant that a tornado was approaching (especially if others were aware of this fact), and this person performed some action based on his ignorance of the actual fact that the tornado was approaching; let’s say he went and closed on a house just prior to the tornado hitting, and then this person ended up dead, financially ruined, house blown away, etc., well, I can see irony in that.
A pity, the movement that was supposed to liberate women turns them into prisoners of petty arguments over whether they are girls, ladies, women or womyn. A tragic irony?
Bobbi, well said.
Well, I guess the irony of this page is how many don’t understand irony at all. Serving Thanksgiving lunch the day after Thanksgiving is in NO WAY ironic. It’s just because they couldn’t do it on the day itself because it’s a holiday. Of course it would make more sense to serve it the day before, but really, who’s counting?
Uploading video onto FB about how boring and useless FB is: not ironic unless… the video itself is useless and boring.
Calling big dog tiny: ironic. Much the same effect can be had by calling a small dog Killer or Tyson.
Missing church to study for theology test: I think we are agreed this is not ironic, just poor planning.
Stepping in puddle after mocking others: definitely not ironic, just coincidence. A lot of people confuse irony with coincidence, like the football commentators who tell us it’s ironic that a player scores against a club he used to play for. NO!
There is an Irish comedian called Ed Byrne who made his early career based on using the Alanis Morrisette song as illustration that Americans didn’t understand irony. The irony of that was: she’s Canadian.
>>Uploading video onto FB about how boring and useless FB is: not ironic unless… the video itself is useless and boring.<<
Sorry, whoever you are, but you saying it doesn't make it so. We've given the reason it's ironic, why do you say it's not?
Something is ironic when, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, it happens in the opposite way to what is expected, and typically causes ‘wry amusement’ as a result.
I would think the first element is easy to detect, whilst the second may be a little harder and more subjective.
@Rocker: This isn’t irony, but I’ve followed Ed Byrne for several years and would give him a little more credit than to say he ‘made his early career’ on the Morisette joke, but your point stands otherwise. He’s a funny, mad bugger in any case.
@Rocker: Agreed that Thanksgiving dinner for lunch the next day is not ironic. Agreed that a video about how boring/useless FB is has to be a boring/useless video in order to be ironic. (Sorry, ApK, we will have to agree to disagree, I guess). Calling a big dog Tiny or a small dog Tyson, not ironic; there is a word for that, and it is “oxymoron.” Or perhaps, in the case of a small dog, wishful thinking, the Napoleon complex, you know? But not irony. I personally thought that the missing church/theology test was kind of ironic, but if it was just poor planning, well, whatever. Stepping in the puddle after making fun of someone who stepped in a puddle is just desserts, fate, karma, what-goes-around-comes-around, plus/minus irony. I LMAO when I read your comment about Alanis being Canadian; now that IS ironic, eh?
OK: Irony to me is: A cardiologist dying of a heart attack, a dentist who wears dentures, a neurologist who has a stroke…a lawyer who gets sued, I don’t know…stuff along those lines…
Writing a song about irony, which supposedly contains examples of irony, but which aren’t ironic, is the very definition of irony.
It is tragic irony, or poetic justice. If something couldn’t be construed as poetic justice (depending on how dark your sense of humour is) then it’s also unlikely to be ironic.
I read all these comments on here, and everyone keeps confusing me with what is ironic and what is not.
(I am researching on examples of irony for my english.)
If anyone could help me, it would be greatly appreciated.
>>If anyone could help me, it would be greatly appreciated.<<
Obviously, we can't.
How ironic! On a page with an article on irony and so many intelligent people commenting on it…and we still can’t help Angie!
Manasvini example is sarcasm not irony. If you say that ‘someone is being ironic’ then you don’t understand the difference between sarcasm and irony. The word ‘ironic’ refers to a situation or juxtaposition, not the act of conveying information of such. Such an utterance would always be sarcastic if the intention was to be ‘ironic’ – Yes, I know it’s ironic I would use the term ‘ironic’ as an example of sarcasm, that’s the point. 🙂
My experience of living in USA leads me to believe the general populace didn’t understand sarcasm until quite recently, and even now it only seems understood by regular viewers of PBS – See any episode of House MD for a masterclass on sarcasm.
As a Brit living in Austin, Texas I quickly learned people here think I am being mean bordering on rude when in fact I am being humorously sarcastic. Maybe only Brits and Aussies do that.
@Anton: Yeah, we Americans don’t understand sarcasm at all. Isn’t that ironic? No, actually that was humorously sarcastic. I wasn’t aware that this type of thing was limited to certain continents.
First of all, apparently YOU don’t understand the difference between sarcasm and irony. You can relay an ironic story and be completely devoid of sarcasm, and vice versa.
Second of all, if people think you’re being mean and rude, perhaps it’s because you ARE being mean and rude. I’m pretty sure I don’t know you, so I can’t say for sure. An anecdote that comes to mind is the story of a friend of mine, who, if she saw someone wearing some garish outfit (e.g., a basket of fruit on her head), she would say, sotto voce, “Damn! I forgot to wear my fruit basket today!” Had she said this so that the fruit-basket-wearer could have heard her, that would have been mean. Had she said it to her face, that would have been mean AND rude. Had she then been required to participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and wear a fruit basket on HER head the following week, THAT, my friend, IMHO, is irony. Had she perhaps been killed when the fruit basket caused her to topple over and be run over by a float, that would have been tragic irony. That’s how I, as an American, see it anyway. Feel free to humorously sarcastically shoot my opinion down.
This comment thread is getting a tad wearisome with the growing number of people (often from across the pond, oddly enough) who think their own narrow understanding of irony is the be-all and end-all on the topic.
Still waiting for some one to explain to me why they think the Facebook example thing is NOT ironic, rather than just telling me I’m wrong.
bird, these folks also seem to missing the idea that, even if you choose to ignore the m-w definition definition of irony that is remarkably similar to sarcasm, one still might use irony to express sarcasm, and that does not mean we..uh…they…are confusing the two.
sigh. ApK, I have read and re-read the M-W definitions of sarcasm and irony, and I am the first to admit (scroll w-a-a-a-a-ay up in this thread) that I do not exactly understand what is or isn’t ironic, at least in the examples given. I disagreed with that poll where people said which ones they thought were ironic or not. IIRC, I think I agree with you that the FB thing was ironic. Perhaps similar to beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, irony is in the ears of the hearer. Also, to make matters more confusing, it seems to me that the M-W definition of irony has it pretty much synonymous with sarcasm. To settle the issue once and for all, I’d agree to go with that, but I do realize that there are differences (as in my previous post, stating that irony and sarcasm can exist separately, and are not necessarily the same, nor are they always interchangeable). I’m not going to get my dander up because some Brit sojourning in Texas thinks that all Americans are dolts. And actually, Austin is a really nice college town with intelligent people and relaxing surroundings…if Anton finds these people too ignorant for his liking, he can, you know, leave. As another friend of mine often says, “There are 49 other states.” OK, make it 48…don’t come to Florida. You won’t like it here either! LOL.
bird, I meant to be criticizing the Brits who were saying all Americans were dolts, and to be agreeing with you, and adding to your previous response to Anton. I think I may have my made intent somewhat incomprehensible. Sorry!
To sum up: Some Americans do understand irony, some don’t, some Brits do, some don’t, and none of us appear to know for sure which group we or other people are in.
I thought I did, and am hoping to find out for sure.