Thursday, January 05, 2006

People, learn what irony is!

Over the last several years I've noticed that so many people mis-use the word "ironic" when describing a coincidence of some sort. It's really become a pet peeve of mine.

Irony usually does involve a coincidence of some sort, but the facts about the situation is what makes it ironic or not.

For instance, recently I saw a story on TV about two golfers whose wives had both delivered premature twins just a few months apart. The babies were delivered at the same hospital and treated by the same medical team. The announcer called it "ironic" that the twins were born under the same circumstances at the same hospital. That's not ironic. It's just a coincidence. For it to be ironic, there would need to be some dark humor somewhere. But there is none here.

Irony is a chiropractor wearing a neck brace. Or a liability lawyer being sued.

Or that O. Henry short story about the comb and the watch. I can't remember the title of the story, but in it a poor man sells his watch to buy a comb for his wife who has long beautiful hair. Unbeknownst to him, his wife had her hair cut and made into a watch chain for her husband to use. So now he has a chain and no watch, and she has a comb but short locks of hair. This is the essence of irony.

Another illustration of irony I can think of off hand comes from a Family Guy episode that parodied the Y2K fears. In the episode, the citizens of New Quahog destroy all their guns because guns are bad and only cause trouble. After the last gun is tossed into the fire they are immediately overrun by a swarm of mutated Stewies. As part of the story, the episode has a scene during the marauding Stewies where one character says to another "Remember how I was trying to explain irony to you the other day?" and is attacked before he can finish his thoughts. Of course, the thought was how ironic that the folks destroyed their guns just when they needed them most.

So irony is a unique set of circumstances that contains some sort of dark humor. Aggravatingly, too many people label unusual coincidences as ironic when they are not.

Of course, the irony here is that they are describing circumstances or situations as ironic when they aren't.

I love irony.


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