Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ironic, Isn't It?

Stuff I read in other writer’s posts and comments always gets me thinking.
A brief exchange I had with Strange Fiction got me pondering my ironic side, and thus irony in general, and why I love it so.

/uy"reuhnee, uy"euhr-/, n., pl. ironies.
1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.
2. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
3. the incongruity of this.

Not to be confused with its close cousins SATIRE and SARCASM; while all three indicate mockery of a person or thing, IRONY is exhibited in the organization or structure of either language or literary material. It indirectly presents a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. One thing is said and its opposite implied, as in "Beautiful weather, isn't it?" said when it is raining. Ironic literature exploits the contrast between an ideal and an actual condition, as when events turn out contrary to expectations.
SATIRE, also a literary and rhetorical form, is the use of ridicule in exposing human vice and folly. Jonathan Swift wrote social and political satires.
SARCASM is a harsh and cutting type of humor. Its distinctive quality is present in the spoken word; it is manifested chiefly by vocal inflection. Sarcastic language may have the form of irony, as in "What a fine musician you turned out to be!", or it may be a direct statement, as in "You couldn't play one piece correctly if you had two assistants!"*

Watermelon Eaters

That said, I love Irony. In many ways, I epitomize the word. In fact, it is irony that makes this one of my favorite photographs.

It’s also the reason why I can’t seem to make myself use the ever-popular emoticon. They are so handy for conveying subtleties, clarifying intent when commenting. But for me, they would seem to suck the irony out of my words. I can’t help it. I like to leave people scratching their heads.

*from Random House, Webster’s College Dictionary.


  1. Irony is one my favorite literary uses. If done well it can make your reader grin with glee when they see it!

  2. I enjoy your injections of irony--they put a smile on my face. I love irony in all it's shapes and forms--take poetic justice for instance..

  3. Personally, I thought George W. Bush's entire presidency was ironic.

  4. I love your use irony! Like Strange, it makes me smile.

  5. I’ve been trying to think of some ironical way to respond to all these nice comments...

    ...I got nothing...

    ...how ironic is that?

  6. Irony is one of those concepts that has always confused me. People often accuse one another of using it incorrectly (see Helen Mirren in Teaching Mrs. Tingle)... but the second and third definitions are how I usually define it.

    And yet... the sentence "Beautiful weather, isn't it?" seems like it could be both ironic and sarcastic (depending on the tone in which it was said). Am I missing something?

  7. I think you are right, Laura.

    JB, have I mentioned that your coverwork for Girl Running and Shipwright are really, really, really good? Wow, even. If I'm ever lucky enough to publish something, perhaps you could do mine? ;)

  8. Darn it, Scott. That's what I was gonna ask her! Nuts. You beat me to it. (Incidentally, I LOVE emoticons!)

    ^ ^
    * *
    ( @ )

    (I think that's a surprised, ravenous pig, but I could be seeing things...)

  9. Scott, that’s sweet of you to say about my artwork.

    If you’ll check out my Unsupervised & at Large blog , you’ll learn the sad reality of my ‘talents’.

  10. Laura, first of all, you’re exactly right on the ‘beautiful day’ thing. It can be taken both ways. If I wrote that in a comment, I’d have to hope you could figure out how I meant it, by reading it in context. Otherwise, I’d have to resort with an emoticon, and since I have publicly stated it’s against my principles, I’d have to leave you scratching your head. Don’t feel bad, I have that effect on nearly all my friends and acquaintances.

    As for the cover art? Quit rubbing my face in my painter’s block—guilt does not inspire! (happy smiley face—or would that be a wink?)

  11. Kind of a coincidence, Laura, that your husband's first name and my last name is Daniel :)

  12. Oh. Well, guilt always inspires me. I felt guilty that you read my manuscript so quickly, which propelled me to finish yours... which I just did! Now, I have to compile my notes... but, sadly, it's still guilt that INSPIRED my slow but eventual progress. Not sure what that says about me...

    (I'm a big fan of emoticons, although I just realized that I sometimes add them after a sarcastic comment - perhaps that's my way of insulting someone with a smile on my face? Hmmm... that's a bummer if that's true.)

    Okay, back to my critique! :-)

  13. Hmm, Scott. That IS a coincidence. I'm just not sure what it means. ;-)

  14. Rather IRONIC, wouldn't you say?

  15. You might not catch this new comment, but I'll give it a go anyway... I finally got around to awarding super-commenters with their "You Don't Say?" award, and even though YOU gave it to ME, I would be remiss if I ignored your amazing contribution to my and other folks' blogs! So come pick it up when you get a chance!