It’s just so ironic

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 at 9:03 PM

Let’s start with a little sing-song. All together now…

“It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

And isn’t it ironic … don’t you think?”

Well, no actually I don’t. Bad luck – yes. Ironic – no. So when should you use the word ironic?

But Alanis Morissette isn’t the only person to have misused the word ironic. She just did it very publically and loudly in her famous song. Misuse of irony and ironic happens all the time.

It’s a favourite of football commentators most weeks as they describe things on the pitch that are simply coincidences or not even that. Take this for example. ‘Carlos Tevez struggled to score for Manchester United. So it’s ironic he’s just scored two against them wearing a Manchester City shirt.’ Not ironic at all. Just very, very annoying. Sorry if you hate football, but you get my point.

So when and how should we use ironic?

Here’s a nice simple definition of irony from the Penguin English Pocket Dictionary (which, ironically, is too large to fit into a pocket):

Meaning one: the humorous use of words to express a meaning opposite to their literal meaning. This definition is the favourite of satirists of course.

Meaning two: incongruity between actual and the expected results of a particular event or course of action.

So, let’s say my next newsletter is all about the importance of getting your newsletter out regularly, and by the date you’ve stated. Then I don’t send out another issue for three months. That would be ironic. And very bad practice of course.

Here’s another example of irony. Some friends of ours moved house recently. The van they hired from the, as it turns out, dodgy local van hire firm broke down in a blizzard. They waited hours for a rescue truck, freezing cold with nothing to read to while away the time. And packed away in boxes in the back? Loads of insulation material and their book collection.

The final example involves the same friends. They finally got to their new home and plugged in their TV. They’ve never been able to get Channel Five on this particular TV. In this house they can’t get any channel except… yep you’ve guessed – Channel Five!

Separated by a common language, guest post by Roy Jacobsen | An ‘infestation’ of ‘inverted commas’

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

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