The term may be further defined into several categories, among which are: verbal, dramatic, and situational. They are all are often used for emphasis in the assertion of a truth. The ironic form of simile, used in sarcasm¡ and some forms of litotes emphasize one's meaning by the deliberate use of language which states the opposite of the truth — or drastically and obviously understates a factual connection.[citation impossible]
Henry Watson Fowler, in The King's English, says "any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same." Also, Eric Partridge, in Usage and Abusage, writes that "Irony consists in stating the contrary of what is meant." This essentially means that all lies, half-truths and misrepresentations are examples of irony. Oh, is tha-- is that not right? Hm.
Irony as a concept can really only be explained well using examples, and even then some of those examples are very bad examples of irony, which again is not well-defined unless using examples. I could make you understand this much easier if we both had the power of Concept Transmission.
"Bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash."
How to tell when something is not IronicEdit
The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply "coincidental" or "improbable". Though they may at times overlap, irony is not simply:
- a lie
- a punchline
- a coincidence
- anything unexpected
- mere sarcasm
When somebody says "wasn't that ironic?' or 'Hoooow IRONIC!" then they are usually not describing irony. They think they are, and outwardly it may appear to be the case, but they are actually not. I wonder if there's a word for that? Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage says:
Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders' incomprehension.
The term is sometimes used as a synonym for incongruous and applied to "every trivial oddity" in situations where there is no double audience. An example of such usage is:
"You did not want there to be rain on her wedding day, and you hadn't expected or planned for it. But then there was rain on your wedding day."
Irony, however, is not synonymous with "incongruous". It is often included in definitions of irony not only that incongruity is present but also that the incongruity must reveal some aspect of human vanity or folly. Thus the majority of American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel found it unacceptable to use the word ironic to describe mere unfortunate coincidences or surprising disappointments. So nyeh.
IT'S LIKE RAIIIIIIIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAYEdit
No it isn't
IT'S A FREE RIDE WHEN YOU'VE AL-REA-DY PAIDEdit
IT'S THE GOOD ADVICE THAT YOU JUST DIDN'T TAKEEdit
AND WHO WOULD'VE THOUGH...IT FIGGURRRRRSEdit
SHUT. UP. FUUUUUUUUUUCK
Types of IronyEdit
- Classical Irony: Socrates spent his life fighting against the 'might makes right' mentality of force and violence in favor of increased justice, and it was exactly this fight and his arguments that led to his peaceable execution after a fair trial.
- Romantic Irony: Juliet awakens to see that drugging herself in an effort to ultimately be with Romeo has led Romeo to commit suicide, so she commits suicide as well.
- Tragic Irony: Like when a clown dies. Of a particularly deadly comic pratfall. If that clown was also led to believe that he was Immortal. And also the audience knew he wasn't all along.
- Cosmic Irony: The people working at SETI are fated to die before ever making contact with aliens, and in fact will miss the contact by a mere 500,000 years, a tiny sliver in the vast history of spacetime.
- Verbal Irony: Is when you think you are being clever. Like when you see your dying friend in the hospital and say, 'You're looking full of life!' Then you fall out of a window and die. See below.
- Dramatic Irony: Irony with flair. See below.
- Poetic Irony: Irony with pentameter.
- Situational Irony: The disparity of intention and result; when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect. Like when you set out not to be murdered but then you were.
Comic Irony: Irony used to produce a comic effect, often combined with satire. For instance, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice begins with the proposition "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." In fact, it soon becomes clear that Austen means the opposite: women (or their mothers) are always in search of, and desperately on the lookout for, a rich single man to make a husband, in order to kill him for his riches. Zaniness ensues.
As you can see, irony be deadly.
Irony as a Rhetorical DeviceEdit
According to A glossary of literary terms by Abrams and Hartman;
Verbal irony is a statement in which the literal meaning that a speaker employs is sharply different from the meaning that is ostensibly expressed. The ironic statement usually involves the explicit expression of one attitude or evaluation, but with indications in the overall speech-situation that the speaker intends a very different, and often opposite, attitude or evaluation.
Verbal irony is distinguished from situational irony and dramatic irony in that it is produced intentionally by speakers. For instance, if a man exclaims, "I'm not upset!" but reveals an upset emotional state through his voice while truly trying to claim he's not upset, it would not be verbal irony by virtue of its verbal manifestation (it would, however, be situational irony). But if the same speaker said the same words and intended to communicate that he was upset by claiming he was not, the utterance would be verbal irony. This distinction illustrates an important aspect of verbal irony - speakers are liars. There are, however, examples of verbal irony that do not rely on saying the opposite of what one means, and there are cases where all the traditional criteria of irony exist and the utterance is not ironic. Because who the fuck knows what's going on. This is a long and detailed definition of what irony is and in the end all we can say is that there are no hard and fast rules to definitively knowing what irony is.
Ironic similes are a form of verbal irony where a deceptive speaker intends to communicate the opposite of what they mean. For instance:
- as soft as concrete
- as clear as mud
- as pleasant as a root canal
- "as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake" (Kurt Vonnegut from Breakfast of Champions)
The irony is recognizable in each case only by using knowledge of the source concepts (e.g., that mud is opaque, that root canal surgery is painful) to detect an incongruity.
"Sarcasm does not necessarily involve irony and irony has often no touch of sarcasm."
"Sarcasm: 1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain. 2 : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual. 3 : Any assertion that begins with the word 'totally.'"
Partridge in Usage and Abusage would separate the two forms of speech completely:
"Oh! Just go ahead and confuse irony with sarcasm, that's fine! They're totally the exact same since sarcasm is directly sharp and caustic and verbal irony is as sharp and caustic as a puppy."
Though verbal irony is the only type of irony that is intentional (for mortals), it doesn't mean that all verbal irony is intentional. Hypocrisy is an example where humans can obliviously say one thing and then violate their strictures the very next moment. This can be quite obliviously unintentional and hilariously ironic. It is especially observable in the world of partisan politics, and is known as political irony. It should be noted, however, that hypocrisy can be intentionally practiced as well, and in such cases is closer to pure duplicitousness or fraud.
Irony as a Story DeviceEdit
This type of irony is the device of giving the spectator an item of information that at least one of the characters in the narrative is unaware of (at least consciously), thus placing the spectator a step ahead of at least one of the characters. Thus any actions or words from the character about this thing are ironic to the audience, because we know better.
- In City Lights the audience knows that Charlie Chaplin's character is not a millionaire, but the blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) believes him to be rich.
- In North by Northwest, the audience knows that Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is not Kaplan; Vandamm (James Mason) and his accomplices do not. The audience also knows that Kaplan is a fictitious agent invented by the CIA; Roger (initially) and Vandamm (throughout) do not.
- In Oedipus the King, the audience knows that Oedipus himself is the murderer that he is seeking; Oedipus, Creon and Jocasta do not.
- In Othello, the audience knows that Desdemona has been faithful to Othello, but Othello does not. The audience also knows that Iago is scheming to bring about Othello's downfall, a fact hidden from Othello, Desdemona, Cassio and Roderigo.
- In The Cask of Amontillado, the reader knows that Montresor is planning on murdering Fortunato, while Fortunato believes they are friends.
- In Forrest Gump, the audience knows the historical significance of the characters and scenarios Forrest Gump finds himself in, but he often does not.
- Landlord Mr. Roper thinks that his tenant Jack is gay and therefore doesn't expect any hanky-panky with roommates Janet and Chrissy, but everyone else knows this to not be the case. Zaniness ensues.
Irony is employed in fiction with the precise purpose of making the author of the work seem more clever and brilliant than either his characters or the audience or both. For example, this entire time I hve been writing this article wearing a fancy tophat, tuxedo and monocle, but I BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW OR EXPECT THAT WHOAH I'M SO IRONIC YOU GUYS ISN'T IT EXCITING HOW GREAT I AM AT IRONY WOOOOOO!! meh somebody's just going to come and delete all of this anyways.
Irony as a Condition of RealityEdit
- "Irony is a black hole, man." ~OrganizmZero
Sometimes things in reality are just physically ironic. This naturally-occuring irony can go unnoticed by humans for millenia, or constantly pointed out in all of the blogs. While some theorize that it is only ironic because humans believe or think it to be so, this is not the case. If aliens saw it they would think it was ironic, too. The nature of reality is not contingent on our expectations, and as such will surprise many (or most) of those participating in reality. Indeed, due to the quantum wave uncertainty of reality, merely participating in reality makes reality more ironic. For example, gods did not exist until people started believing in them, and now gods exist.
Young-Earth Creationists may find it ironic that every hard fact of the entirety of accepted modern scientific discovery proves that the Earth is over 4.5 billion years old, despite their Judeo-Christian God of the Bible being the infallible source of all truth. This may be reconciled by assuming that facts aren't related to truth.
Examples with God or gods are appropriate to mention, since as you shall see a Cosmic Irony is one of those naturally-occuring ironies as determined by the fates.
- When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, all of his shots initially missed the President; however, a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof Presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, a vehicle made to protect the President from gunfire instead directed gunfire to the president.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a story whose resolution revolves around situational irony. Dorothy travels to a wizard and fulfills his challenging demands to go home, before discovering she had the ability to go back home all the time. The Scarecrow longs for intelligence, only to discover he is already a genius, and the Tin Woodsman longs to be capable of love, only to discover he already has a heart. The Lion, who at first appears to be a whimpering coward, turns out to be bold and fearless. The people in Emerald City believed the Wizard to be a powerful deity, only to discover that he is a bumbling, eccentric old man with no special powers at all.
- In O. Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi", a young couple are too poor to buy each other Christmas gifts. The wife cuts off her treasured hair to sell it to a wig-maker for money to buy her husband a chain for his heirloom pocket watch. She's shocked when she learns he had pawned his watch to buy her a set of combs for her long, beautiful, prized hair.
- In The Twilight Zone, the device of the Zone itself often fills the role of the ironically cruel gods or fates. In the episode Time Enough At Last, a bookish, bespectacled little man who loves nothing more than reading finds himself the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust. Wandering despairingly through the wreckage of civilization, he eventually stumbles upon the ruins of the public library, where somehow numerous tomes have survived the bomb. Enraptured, he realizes he now will finally have time to do all the reading he's always wanted to do. After organizing all the volumes, he sits down to begin his glorious reading. Noticing one book amiss, he reaches for it... only to have his thick glasses fall and break, leaving him too blurry-visioned to read anything.
- Alanis Morissettes song 'Ironic' contains a variety of context based metaphoric examples of situational irony. Such as "rain on your wedding day" (a disaster on a day that was meant to be perfect). It is often confused with being unironic by critics because the situational metaphors are thought to be expressed literally, instead of metaphorically as is the general case with song writing. "See? Black hole."
When history is assessed, there often appear sharp contrasts between the way historical figures see their world's future and what actually transpires. For example, during the 1920s The New York Times repeatedly scorned crossword puzzles, lamenting in 1924; "the sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern," and in 1925; "the question of whether the puzzles are beneficial or harmful is in no urgent need of an answer. The craze evidently is dying out fast." Today, no U.S. newspaper is more closely identified with the crossword than The New York Times. Other areas where The New York Times will be found to be historically ironic will be in matters with Israel, Iran, and NYC's bike share program.
In a more tragic example of historical irony, what people now refer to as "The First World War" was called by H.G. Wells "The war that will end war", "The war to end war" and "The War to End All Wars", and thus became a widespread chilched truism. Historical irony is therefore a subset of cosmic irony, but one in which the element of time is bound to play a role. Another example could be that of the Vietnam war, where in the 1960s the U.S.A. attempted to stop the Viet Cong (Viet Minh) taking over South Vietnam. However it is an often ignored fact that, in 1941, the U.S. originally supported the Viet Minh in its fight against Japanese occupation. Such U.S.A. irony is historically very common (and thus no longer unexpected), since they also initially had overtly or covertly supported and/or armed Al-Qaeda members, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and the Shah of Iran.
Gunpowder was, according to prevailing academic consensus, discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality. Rubber bands were discovered after efforts failed to research ways of keeping things apart.
Historical irony also includes inventors killed by their own creations, such as William Bullock — unless, due to the nature of the invention, the risk of death was always known and accepted, as in the case of Otto Lilienthal, who was killed by a flying glider of his own amazing and fantasmagorical design! This is known as being hoisted by one's own petard, or blown up by your own grenade.
Some examples of situations poignantly contrary to expectation:
Examples from historyEdit
- In the Kalgoorlie gold rush of the 1890s, large amounts of the little-known mineral calaverite (gold telluride) were ironically identified as fool's gold. These mineral deposits were used as a cheap building material, and for the filling of potholes and ruts. When several years later the mineral was identified, there was a minor gold rush to excavate the streets.
- John F. Kennedy's last conversation was ironic in light of events which followed seconds later. During the motorcade in Dallas, in response to Mrs. Connolly's comment, "Mr. President, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love you," Kennedy replied, "Dallas can go fuck itself." Immediately after, he was mortally wounded.
- In 1974, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had to recall 80,000 of its own lapel buttons promoting "toy safety", because the buttons had sharp edges, used lead paint, had small clips that could be broken off and swallowed, and were used by a notrious serial killer to murder children.
- In Indian history, King Kamsa is told in a prophecy that a child of his sister Devaki would kill him. To prevent this, he imprisons both Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, allowing them to live only if they hand over their children as soon as they are born. He murders nearly all of them, one by one, but the seventh and eighth children, Balarama and Krishna, are saved and raised by a royal couple, Nanda and Yashoda. After the boys grow up, Krishna eventually kills Kamsa as the prophecy foretold. Kamsa's attempt to prevent the prophecy led to it becoming a reality. Self-fulfilling prophecies are common motifs in Greek history as well. This story is similar to the story of Cronus preventing his wife from raising any children, the one who ends up defeating him being Zeus, the later King of the Gods. Other similar tales in Greek Mythology include Perseus (who killed his grandfather, Acrisius by accident with a discus despite Acrisius' attempt to avert his fate) and more famously Oedipus who killed his father and married his mother not knowing their relationship due to being left to die by his father to prevent that very prophecy from occurring.
- Introducing cane toads to Australia to control the cane beetle not only failed to control the pest, but introduced, in the toads themselves, a 'very much worse'(!?) pest. The Australians then imported egrets, and so on and so on with larger and larger animals, until Australia was eventually overrun with hippopotami.
- Kudzu - a vine imported to the United States in the 1930s and planted all over the South at the direction of the US Government to prevent soil erosion. Instead of preventing erosion, it climbs and chokes native trees and plants, thus causing even more erosion.
- A bunch of idiots were dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.
- In the Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling in 1856, the United States Supreme Court held that the Fifth Amendment barred any law that would deprive a slaveholder of his property, such as his slaves, upon the incidence of migration into free territory. So, in a sense, the Supreme Court used the Bill of Rights to deny rights to slaves. Also, chief justice Taney hoped that the decision would resolve the slavery issue, but instead it helped cause the American Civil War. Zaniness ensues.
- Take the Oracle at Delphi's prophecy to Croesus that if the king went to war, he would "destroy a great empire." Since the empire that was destroyed was his own, it's a case of situational irony for Croesus (who chose to attack based on this supposed encouragement; his opponent was Persia, also a great empire at the time), verbal irony from the Oracle (who is entirely aware that Croesus will misinterpret her)note , tragic irony for the audience (who already know how this is going to go), and possibly cosmic irony (for those who believe in hubris, like many Ancient Greeks did), but since it's in the history books, it's also historical irony. IRONY C-C-C-C-C-C-C-COMBO!!!! 5X MULTIPLIER!!!!
- The old Ice House burned down.
Irony is sometimes intentionally accomplished (more of a Verbal Irony) by place names being incongruent. Like Greenland being all ice and Iceland being green. However, some of these places were named appropriately at their time, but then situtions changed so as to now be unintentionally ironic. Like the fact that Christmas Island was discovered on Christmas Day, but today 75% of the population practice Buddhism and 99.9979% are crabs. It is also possible that a mere quirk of language butting up against reality makes the name of a place unintentionally ironic, like the fact that the planet is named 'Earth' but is mostly covered in water.
Gods have a great sense of irony and delight in meting out ironic justice; this is also somewhat related to the concept of karma.
Ironic Echoes can also cruelly come back to add insult to injury. In fact, as commanded by the fates and the Gods, your final punishment, death, or even personal hell can all be ironic. This may be a self-inflicted hell, karmic redistribution, or "Contrappasso", Italian for "counter-suffering", which means "the punishment fits the crime."
It is interesting to note that when Gods use irony on their end, it is intentional and thus perhaps more akin to verbal irony. But when witnessed by mortals, it appears as situational irony. Thus cosmic irony is always at least two types of irony. Unless the gods and fates didn't exist this whole time. Now that would be ironic!
Irony as a SenseEdit
Most people are not born with a fully-developed sense of irony (the ironically-disabled). And it does seem that most of those who do have full mastery of irony as their special ability or power, are often smug assholes (Douchey Awesomes).
It is due to this inborn sense of irony that some people will laugh correctly at ironic situations, and others do not understand that anything strange happened at all. It also explains why those born without irony will try to compensate by using irony, and miserably fail at it. Like a Psychopath born without empathy trying to run an Orphanage.
Because so many people have been sadly borned with no sense of irony, pompous writers of literature have prosed and proposed a written mark for irony (؟), just so that everybody could fully appreciate the genius of their mastery over irony. This would be like putting a special bell in the audio of movies so that deaf people would know when something really visually stimulating was going on.
A good sense of irony is rare, but it is not the rarest of senses. That would be common sense. HOOWWW IRONICC.
See also: Socratic method
Socrates was perhaps born with the world's most Awesome sense of irony, and went as far as to "dissimulate ignorance as a means of confuting an adversary". Socrates would pretend to be ignorant of the topic under discussion, to draw out the inherent nonsense in the arguments of his interlocutors. The Chambers Dictionary defines it as "a means by which a questioner pretends to know less than a respondent, when actually he knows more" and, more sneakily, "to feign credence in your opponent's power of thought, in order to tie him in knots."
A more modern example of Socratic irony can be seen in Los Angeles Police Homicide Detective, Columbo.
According to Plato's Apology, Socrates' life as the "gadfly" of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the oracle at Delphi if anyone were wiser than Socrates; the Oracle responded that no-one was wiser. Socrates believed the Oracle's response was a paradox, because he believed he possessed no wisdom whatsoever. He proceeded to test the riddle by approaching men considered wise by the people of Athens—statesmen, poets, and artisans—in order to refute the Oracle's pronouncement. Questioning them, however, Socrates concluded: while each man thought he knew a great deal and was wise, in fact they knew very little and were not wise at all. Socrates realized the Oracle was correct; while so-called wise men thought themselves wise and yet were not, he himself knew he was not wise at all, which, paradoxically, made him the wiser one since he was the only person aware of his own ignorance. Socrates' paradoxical wisdom made the prominent Athenians he publicly questioned look foolish, turning them against him and leading to accusations of wrongdoing. Socrates defended his role as a gadfly until the end: at his trial, when Socrates was asked to propose his own punishment, he suggested a wage paid by the government and free dinners for the rest of his life instead, to finance the time he spent as Athens' benefactor. He was, nevertheless, found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety ("not believing in the gods of the state"), and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock.
But according to Xenopho, Socrates purposefully gave a defiant defense to the jury because "he believed he would be better off dead". Socrates explained that he would be glad to circumvent rigors of old age by being sentenced to death, and also wished to die because he "actually believed the right time had come for him to die." So in punishing him, the Athenians gave Socrates exactly what he wanted. Hooooooooow ironic!
Irony in more recent times has become something of a sport for both those naturally inclined to the ironic senses (ie.: the British), and those who have no idea what irony is (ie.: hipsters). Playing a game of irony is very easy, as all you have to do is remark or do something or wear a thing that you yourself deem ironic, and then congratulate yourself for getting a point. Since nobody else is playing the same game of irony that you are, then you will always win at irony. Of course, this also means that you will always come in last place as well. Hoooow IRONIC!
One way that hipsters employ irony is with the related but not exactly the same sarcasm. When sarcasm is employed constantly and/or overtly, it is no longer the opposite of what is expected. It is quite expected, and thus is unironic. For example, in a hipster part of town where all hipsters dress a hipster way all trying to 'be ironic', they are no longer ironic. If someone does not know how you would dress otherwise, then dressing like a dolt is not ironic. For all they know, that's how you would normally dress. And in fact, it is now how you normally dress. That is why it is now known as 'dressing like a hipster.' We expect your t-shirt to look a certain way. Get it? If you really wanted to be ironic, then you should dress like a hipster for years and talk about how important your 'style' or 'fashion' is, and then suddenly start dressing like a filthy hobo or something. Or walk around naked. But nobody wants to see that.
If Irony was a sport that could be played with more than one person, then it wouldn't matter, because Stephen Fry would be winning.
Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and others, see irony, such as that used by Socrates, as a disruptive force with the power to undo texts and readers alike. The phrase itself is taken from Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics, and is applied by Kierkegaard to the irony of Socrates. This tradition includes 19th-century German critic and novelist Friedrich Schlegel ("On Incomprehensibility"),Charles Baudelaire, Stendhal, and the 20th century deconstructionist Paul de Man ("The Concept of Irony"). In Kierkegaard's words, from On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates:
[Socratic] irony [is] the infinite absolute negativity. It is negativity, because it only negates; it is infinite, because it does not negate this or that phenomenon; it is absolute, because that by virtue of which it negates is a higher something that still is not. The irony established nothing, because that which is to be established lies behind it...
Where much of philosophy attempts to reconcile opposites into a larger positive project, Kierkegaard and others insist that irony—whether expressed in complex games of authorship or simple litotes—must, in Kierkegaard's words, "swallow its own stomach". Irony entails endless reflection and violent reversals, and ensures incomprehensibility at the moment it compels speech. Similarly, among other literary critics, writer David Foster Wallace viewed the pervasiveness of ironic and other postmodern tropes as the cause of "great despair and stasis in U.S. culture, and that for aspiring fictionists [ironies] pose terrifically vexing problems."