You understand irony, right?

What is irony, why is it abused and how can corporate communicators benefit from it?

Irony might be the literary device that frees communicators from the crushing corporate hierarchy. Communicators can deploy it on unsuspecting co-workers and managers as a subtle form of rebellion, an escape from corporate idiocy.

Wait! You do understand irony, right? You’re not among the countless hordes that misuse and abuse the word every day.

Like the guy who says, “I ran into my cousin at the grocery store—how ironic!” or “It’s ironic: I was going to call you, but I ran into my cousin at the grocery store and broke my leg.”

None of that is ironic; it’s coincidence and strange misfortune, but not irony.

So what is irony, why is it so abused and how, exactly, can corporate communicators benefit from it?

A tremendous and elusive device

Irony is a gift from the ancient Greeks, who used the word “eironieia” to describe a lie of omission or by concealment of true intent. When the Romans adopted it, “eironieia” became “ironia” and they dropped lie of omission from the definition.

Linguists believe “ironia” entered the English lexicon around 1502 and since then its meaning has evolved. Today, irony is a figure of speech that highlights the difference between what is expected and what actually occurs.

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