What is irony?

To me in the song “Isn’t it Ironic?” all the examples given are depressing or unlucky but they aren’t ironic. For example in my mind the line “like needing a spoon when all you have is forks” is unlucky. Now going out and buying forks then finding out all you needed was a spoon is ironic. So I thought to myself maybe to be ironic you actually have to do something. But then I read a comment here about how the guy thought only superheroes with masks were cool and I thought that was ironic since Superman was the first superhero. So what do you think? What is ironic?

It’s like goldy or silvery, but made of iron.

What is ironic? Writing a song titled “Ironic” that’s filled with examples of things that aren’t actually ironic.

YouTube video explaining irony

It has been done before ;): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT1TVSTkAXg

That’s good, but that is just one type of irony (verbal irony). The general idea is that irony is an incongruity between expectations and reality.

I’ve always thought that Ethan Hawke’s character gave a pretty good definition in the movie Reality Bites, to wit: It’s when the literal meaning is the exact opposite of the intended meaning. Or something like that.

Once again, that’s just one kind of irony, but it plays into the expectations vs actuality defintion.

Irony is just tragedy with context.

I came into this thread expecting a zombie, because no one has been fooled by this song for 18 years (the first year it was out there was quite a bit of confusion, I admit). And yet this thread is fresh as a daisy. Is that ironic?*


Our well water is pretty irony. I use a special salt in the water softener.

You were pumping iron while I was pumping irony*

*quoting Robert Plant from his 90s phase

Actually rain on your wedding day (mentioned in the song) is ironic because it totally sucks but it’s supposed to be good luck.

A bus driver who gets hit by a bus is ironic.
A plumber who gets hit by a bus is just bad luck.

Someone whose job it is to improve bus safety getting hit by a bus: that’s ironic.

Yeah, that would be my distinction. I’m not sure how a bus driver getting hit by a bus is ironic, but your example is definitely ironic.

What was her last name?

Smeghead, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people, wasn’t it?

There are many kinds of irony.

  1. a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

My favorite is dramatic irony, when the audience is privy to certain information or awareness that the current characters are not, and the characters are saying things and acting in certain ways that would be preposterous if they knew what the audience knew. Shakespeare and the Greeks were masters of this.

  1. “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”

There is also the irony that Alanis sang about in her song, which is basically when something that is the exact opposite of what you would expect it to be. Everybody expects good weather on their wedding day whether that’s reasonable or not, so raining on your wedding day is ironic (to some people it’s not, because such an expectation is unreasonable). Being afraid of flying only to make one flight and die in the crash is highly ironic because air travel is so incredibly safe. Never needing surgery until you are in your 50’s only to go to a surgeon who is a serial killer who purposefully kills his patients would be ironic.

  1. “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”

The third kind of irony is stating something that is the exact opposite or completely understated for the intended meaning. Pretty much synonymous with sarcasm today, although some argue there is a difference.

Merriam-Webster “ask the editor” video on the word ‘ironic’: