Saturday, January 26, 2008

Irony: You're Using It Wrong

A lot of people have complimented me on my blog, appreciating that it is not a boring daily rant about subjects no one cares about. I strive to keep it interesting, informative, and generally low-rant.

That being said, I've had this particular pet peeve of mine triggered about a half-dozen times in the last day and a half, so things might get a little rant-tastic in this particular entry.

Listen: just because something is surprising, unexpected, or unfortunate does not make it ironic, and I will thank you not to automatically say so. It seems like the automatic responses when people aren't really listening to what you said are "Uh-huh," "Hmm," and "Well, that's ironic."

Odds are, it's actually not.

I gave up on calling people on using "gay" as a pejorative a long time ago.1 I use it myself occasionally, just for the shock/humor value (I'm takin' it back!). But I'm not ready to give up on irony just yet.

Personally, I blame Alanis Morissette. Irony is not like ray-ee-ain on your wedding day, and it's not a no smoking sign on your cigarette break.

Something is ironic if it is being used or has an effect the opposite of what is expected or intended. Not just different, but the opposite. It should not be used to refer to any unexpected event or absurdity of life.

Irony is not a black man who hates fried chicken. He merely has his own tastes. Also, that's racist and you should be ashamed.

A sniper killed by falling rocks did not die an "ironic" death, because the juxtaposition of nature and technology is not ironic. It is also not ironic if the man who invented the Pet Rock were to be killed by falling rocks (it is, however, hilarious).

Really I'm not sure if falling rocks can be an ironic death at all, so maybe it's a bad example. Irony would be if a safety measure was put in place to PREVENT death by falling rocks, and that safety measure wound up killing someone, and/or the building of the safety measure caused a rockslide.

Being killed by an airbag is an ironic death, because that which was meant to save your life is what killed you.

In certain 80s sci-fi movies, irony is trying to prevent nuclear war by putting the a logical computer in charge of nuclear weapons instead of emotional humans, only to have that computer decide that the only logical way to prevent humans from annihilating each other is to annihilate them itself.

Irony is creating DRM to reduce piracy, only to have it increase piracy because pirating has become more convenient than purchasing legitimately.

Irony is a cop car with a bumper sticker that says, in tiny print that you have to strain and focus to see, "Watch the Road."

It is not ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.2

Get it? Got it. Good!



  1. The last time I tried to call someone on it, a friend of mine apologized for being late somewhere because "traffic was so gay." I asked him, "What exactly was homosexual about it?" To which he replied "Some guy crawled up my tailpipe and rode my ass for an hour and a half." I had to concede.

  2. Seriously, Alanis. WTF.

4 comments:

Rin said...

So did this comic do it right?
http://www.starslip.com/2005/05/27/starslip-709/

Dorkman said...

Yes, if a planet named "Oculus" were to be discovered as the home of an eye-less species, that would be ironic.

Being unable to "see" their own bitterness is a bit of a stretch -- but the idea is that the Captain doesn't "get it" anyway, so I can roll with it.

Daniel Broadway said...

How could anyone who has been through school not understand a simple concept like irony?

Master Zap said...

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/irony