Isn't It Ironic? No, Because You're Using The Word Incorrectly
I have some opinions about words and phrases.
It stems from My Why: the reason why I do what I do is because whenever I see writing that needs help, I feel compelled to run to it and fix it.
Which brings me to the word ironic. In my experience, this is unequivocally the most misused word that I read and hear. Dictionary.com backs me up, more harshly stating that, “...ironic might be the most abused word in the English language.”
Side note: I didn’t know that word-abuse was a thing.
I’m going to set the record straight once and for all on how to properly execute this most misused and abused of words.
What Does “Ironic” Actually Mean?
Let’s start with the definition.
Irony is when something happens that is the opposite of what was expected. It often has to do with a discrepancy between what someone says and what they actually mean, or what someone thinks and what actually happens.
Here are some free samples of ironic situations:
- A fire station burning down
- A person with a fear of heights becoming a skydiving instructor
- A vegetarian who’s a butcher
- A drug dealer who sits on the board of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- If I misuse the word ironic in this blog post. Lordy, that would be embarrassing.
Ironic Vs. Coincidence
Now this is the stuff, so pay close attention.
The biggest butchery of “ironic'' is when people confuse it with coincidence.
Ironic does not mean coincidence. Full stop. No, I go on.
A coincidence is when two or more things happen at the same time without any apparent connection.
Here are some free samples of coincidental situations:
- You meet someone with the same name as your best friend
- Two people have the same birthday
- You and a stranger have matching tattoos
- You and a line of people behind you at Ravinia learn at the box office that you were prey to the same Craig’s List ticket scam. This may have happened to me and them.
One of these words is not like the other.
The Types of Irony
Time to word nerd out.
The three main types of irony are:
- Verbal Irony: when someone says the opposite of what they mean, often for humorous or dramatic effect. For example, if someone were to comment on this blog post, “Thank you so much for presuming that I didn’t know the meaning of irony and that I confuse it with coincidence. What would I do without you?”
- Situational Irony: when something happens that is the opposite of what was expected or what was intended. In the context of literature, one of the best examples is Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare.” We expect the hare to win the race, because, duh, but he loses to the tortoise for being a schmuck.
- Dramatic Irony: when the audience knows something that the characters in a story do not. This often creates a sense of suspense or drama. Take any horror film where you and the killer know exactly where the victim is hiding. “Run!” You scream in vain and feel responsible for the victim’s disembowelment.
I’ll leave you with a pop quiz:
If today were National Irony Day, would the timing of my blog post be ironic or coincidental?
Don’t screw this one up.
About the Author, David Telisman
I am a Writer and Content Creator, and I work with businesses to inspire their customers to buy from them. I believe that my clients deserve to feel proud of how their content marketing looks and what it says, and I deliver by providing expert copywriting and marketing solutions.
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