For instance, “It’s like a no smoking sign on your cigarette break.” You know what that is? It’s a tough break for the smoker—but it’s not ironic. Just plain bad luck.
So, what is irony?
It’s a figure of speech that highlights the difference between what is expected and what actually occurs. The late comedian George Carlin gives a grim description in his book, Brain Droppings.
What is expected? The diabetic man will buy insulin and continue living. What occurs? Insulin, the very thing that should save his life, kills him. Pretty simple. However, as Carlin showed, irony is often mistaken for coincidence, contradiction, misfortune, or something that’s merely amusing.
Just ask my former high school English teacher.
“I hear people assuming a definition [of irony] or a sense of its application and not being accurate in examples that demonstrate it,” explained my now retired high school English teacher Mike Deines.
“To me irony is a tremendous tool if it can be used well. The intent of being ironic is to point out something that is absurd, taken to extreme and that is contrary to fact.”
So, is Alanis Morissette the culprit for irony abuse?