Irony


last update: 3 November 2020


Wikipedia mentions
irony as a figure of speech, or more specifically an example of tropes, e.g. what is said, written, or done implies the opposite of the standard meaning. In the Wikipedia definition of irony the idea is that there are two possible interpretations, and where the 'surface' meaning is not the same as the 'underlying' meaning (and they are incongruous or contradictory). So there is one audience that understands only the 'surface' meaning, and another audience that understands both the 'surface' meaning and the 'underlying' meaning.

A simple case of
irony might be situational, with a fire station burning down, or a marriage counsellor filing for divorce, i.e. things happen in exactly the opposite way to that expected.
It is said that most
shoplifted item in the US is the Bible.
And it would appear that
McDonald's once warned its employees not to eat their burgers and fries.
William Phelps Eno (American, 1858-1945) invented many road safety and traffic control signs, but never learned to drive.
As a perfect example of
irony, all the examples used in the song 'Ironic' by Alanis Morissette are not examples of irony.
"
This sentence contains threee erors".
The teacher once asked "
Name two pronouns". I said "Who, me?"
Rhotacism is the inability to pronounce the 'r' sound.
John Adams (2nd US president) one said "..one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress"

This
article on irony highlights the fact that it's…

  • More than just a coincidence, e.g. just because it stops raining when you stop jogging is not ironic, irony must be incongruous and counterfactual. The coincidence must surprise and be significant, and not simply mundane.

  • A diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway lorry. It was an accident. If the lorry was carrying sugar it was an oddly poetic coincidence, but if the lorry was carrying insulin, it would be irony.

  • Different from a paradox, which can also be incongruous and unexpected, but a paradox goes one step further and is self-contradicting. A great example of a paradox is the song "The Sound of Silence", which is not at all ironic.

  • Different again from satire which is more to do with imitating people or situations in a way as to expose flaws or stupidity. It is a play between the literal meaning and the intended meaning. A satirist can use the paradox, outlandish exaggeration, blatant falsehoods, or sly innuendo.

  • Different from, sarcasm which is insincere speech, so a form of mockery. So irony pertains more to situations, whilst satire and sarcasm are forms of expression.

  • Also different from parody which is about making fun of something through a satiric or ironic imitation.