An A-Z of Irony – What is It?

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Mar 13, 2011 Hannah Brownlow

Oedipus, one of the greatest examples of dramatic irony -Vincenzocampisi

Irony is a fascinating, multi-faceted concept. Read on to get to grips with all aspects of what it is, and what it most certainly is not.
Irony is a great linguistic trait that can plump up any boring article, bring a wry smile to those in the know, and be one of the most useful tools in making an effective critique of today’s society. Used well, irony can achieve all these things wonderfully; done poorly, you do end up looking a bit daft. Often the deciding factor as to which side of the fence you fall on depends on your understanding of irony. And as you will discover, not everyone is particularly well-versed on its subtleties.

Alanis Morissette
In our A-Z it is only logical to start at A. What is illogical, however, is Ms. Morissette’s understanding of irony in her 1995 song, ‘Ironic’. It has often been noted that a large amount of the examples stated in the lyrics are not particularly ironic, merely unfortunate. ‘Rain on your wedding day’ cannot be construed as ironic; ‘a free ride when you’ve already paid’ shows a failure to read instructions adequately; and as for the ‘good advice that you just didn’t take’, well that’s stupid not ironic. It could be that the song is a wider statement on irony and the fact the ironic examples are not ironic makes the song ironic after all. This seems to me a bit deep for anyone who isn’t a philosopher and can make sense of a sentence that contains the word ‘ironic’ in it three times…
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Situational Irony Now we have a clear definition of irony. READ ON    Review of The Tortilla Curtain Latin Quotations From the Satires of Juvenal The Coen Brothers' "Burn After Reading" . often both. but it captures the essence of irony perfectly. Irony therefore has pejorative connotations. The Modern Meaning The Cultural Dictionary has my favourite definition of irony: ‘The use of words to mean something very different from what they appear on the surface to Origins The word has a variety of meanings that date from its origins: hypocrisy. If I were to say ‘is this seat taken?’ the direct response is ‘no’. let’s look at the different manifestations of it.’ This is a very broad definition. Pragmatics is the linguistic study of the intentions of a speaker. but without the negativity of hypocrisy. what I really mean.LifesGreatestQuestion. is ‘can I sit here?’ Pragmatics is what takes irony as a factual sentence and transforms it into something deeper – usually something comic or critical. This branch too has duality central to its meaning: situational irony arises when the opposite of what you thought would happen. however. Irony can be situational. which make it remarkable to see how it is now a recognised literary technique that writers strive to master (we wouldn’t dream of slotting a slice of hypocrisy or sarcasm into academic papers). all harking back to Middle English. is the pragmatic quality of irony. happens. What it refers to most plainly. From its very beginning the word had this idea of falsity at its heart. sarcasm. however.God Can Give You New Life Learn From This True Life Story How God Can Change Your Life www. It combines the duality of the hypocrite with the deliberate lies of sarcasm and the understatement. it too is a basic definition of sarcasm and the understatement. It still hints at duality. This has to do largely with the modern meaning and modern usages of irony. understatement. It is this kind of irony that Alanis Morissette was going for.

What sarcasm has that irony doesn’t is the intention to insult. . Sarcasm: as Karen on BBC’s Outnumbered would say. Satire’s main purpose is to critique and expose using irony and/or sarcasm. contrary to their initial thoughts. you may have had images of the perfect wedding. Oedipus doesn’t realise that the woman he has married is his mother and the person he murdered was his father: living a life as a blind recluse probably is quite different to the life he originally imagined for himself.In this way you could maybe interpret. ‘rain on your wedding day’ as an example of situational irony: you plan the entire wedding down to the last detail. This couldn’t be truer and this can also be applied to many of the definitions surrounding all things ‘ironic’. this is unlikely to be done through crude sarcastic jibes. This doesn’t at first seem traditionally ironic. for example). I still maintain that the original lyric is not ironic. Verbal & Written Irony The most traditional type of irony is the irony we make ourselves by using the written or the spoken word. Satire: this is not exclusive of irony or sarcasm and can contain both. and I would argue it ranges from sarcasm to satire. only with the explanation do we get this clarity. the opposite does happen for the characters. A politician’s reputation can be destroyed by using satire. Sarcasm has its roots in words meaning to sneer. There is a scale of formality within the general umbrella of irony. After some explanation you can see from where the irony can bubble up. Dramatic irony is situational irony written down. but you can’t control the weather and everyone has a rubbish day because it pours. sarcasm is when you say one thing and mean the opposite. Dramatic Irony The final type of irony that I will discuss ties both the situational and the written together. but it rained. and the bride’s dress absorbed the muddy water so much that it looked like it had been dip-dyed brown. The reason I have placed it at the other end of the scale is that it requires a certain amount of aptitude to be used effectively. It is most commonly found in theatre and has come to refer to the knowledge the audience has over what the characters know themselves: the audience knows what the characters don’t and can appreciate that horrible moment when they watch them walk into their own tragedy (in the case of Oedipus. but as far as situational irony is concerned. setting it apart as informal along with other taboo language. Read more at Suite101: An It? | .com http://www.‘Isn’t it ironic. don’t you think…’ A-Z of Irony – What is Suite101.

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