What Is Irony?

March 7, 2012

in Technical Writing

 The definition of irony has been trampled on in the 20th century, and more often than not people using the word “ironic” actually mean “coincidentally” or “by chance.” So it’s time to clear this up. First we will look at the dictionary definitions and then simplify irony with clear-cut examples. Let’s start by clarifying that it is not ironic that we are discussing irony.

Merriam-Webster defines irony as follows:

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

But that probably doesn’t help you very much, does it? Is it Ironic though that when you most need to understand irony you can’t. It is indeed. So let’s look at a simplified version of irony and then some examples.

There are technically two types of irony, both with parallel meanings; verbal irony and situational irony. Wikipedia describes this as “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.”

Examples of Being Ironic

  • When I most needed energy I couldn’t get up
  • The name of my friend’s Doberman is tiny
  • I laughed at a person getting wet in the rain the other day, and then the next day as I stepped out of my house in a t-shirt, it turned from being sunny to raining in seconds.

Examples of Not Being Ironic

  • I went into a store that was called The Store
  • I tweeted a tweet about Twitter
  • I have a biology test at school tomorrow but I will miss it because I have a doctor’s appointment

What you will notice about the Not Ironic examples is that they are coincidental or humorous, not ironic. We hope this has helped you better understand irony. We also hope you can go forth and help spread the true meaning of irony.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Reneé Olivier September 13, 2012 at 3:23 am

Thank you. A solid, succinct explanation.

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