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Thursday 11 August 2011

Irony: a rant.

I thought I'd have a good rant about people who misuse the word irony.

But then I thought about it some more, and perhaps it's really the word irony itself that's the villain, and not the people using it.

I mean, irony does have several meanings, and they do blur into one another most confusingly.

So, irony.

Well, poor Alanis Morisette and Glen Ballard, eh? They wrote a song called It's Ironic which was made up of a whole list of things that aren't actually...well, ironic. Hitting a traffic jam when you're already late isn't ironic at all, it's just really, really exasperating.

The central idea of irony is that somewhere there's a power (the gods, fate etc) that watches people going about their lives and takes delight in pressing the NOBBLE button just when people think they've got things sorted out.

For instance, the man who tried to shoot Ronald Reagan missed him, but a shot hit the presidential car, which was so carefully armoured that the shot ricocheted and hit Ronald Reagan in the chest.

Another for instance: my husband took his swimming trunks, carefully wrapped in his towel, on a trip to the pool. But he fell into a pond on the way and it was only his swimming stuff that avoided getting soaked through. (Still makes me laugh, that.)

Then, as well, you have the sort of irony that's pretty much the same as sarcasm but without the bitterness. Then there's dramatic irony, too, which is when a fictional character says something and you know they've got it ALL WRONG and that they're DOOMED.

Perhaps one day we'll evolve into bigger-brained creatures who can cope with this sort of thing. But for now perhaps we should go easy on the word irony.

Unless, of course, we hold back on pronouncing the r and mean full of iron.

Word To Use Today But Only After A Lot Of Thought And Possibly Not Even Then: irony. This word comes from the Greek words eirōn, which means dissembler, and eirein, which means to speak.

Interesting that they're such similar words, isn't it.

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