Monday, February 15, 2010

Irony! Irony! Get you irony here!

Remember when Alanis Morissette released her song 'Ironic' back in 1995? And how it sparked a debate about irony and what makes something ironic?

There was rather a large carry-on at the time about how all the situations Morissette describes in her song are more just dirty rotten bad luck than ironic, and for the reductiveness and stupidity of the debate I blame Reality Bites entirely ("Can you define irony?" squeaked a nymph-sized Winona Ryder; "It's when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning," threw back the silly, bum-fluffed Ethan Hawke.)

Yes yes blah blah, one of the definitions of 'irony' is where the actual meaning is the opposite of the stated meaning, but irony can also mean an incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs, thus it is (by this definition) ironic that you should find a black fly in your chardonnay (you didn't expect it to be there, did you?), and that you find yourself (or, more accurately, someone else finds you) dead the next day after winning the lottery.*

(*Please note, I'm assuming here that your death was unexpected to you, unless of course you had planned to commit suicide, or you were scheduled to be a sacrifice to some deity or other. In these cases it's not so much ironic that you won the lottery then died as rather bad timing. Or you have the wrong friends.)

Point is, the debate about irony surrounding the Morissette song, however imprecise and illogical it may sometimes have been, has kept the concept of irony front of mind so that when stories like this appear we all know what it reeks of:

Anti-Immigration Ex-Politician Pauline Hanson Set to Emigrate to the UK.

What's that, Pauline? There's something black floating in your frosty, hard-earned beer? Oh that's a fly, I put it there earlier. No it's not ironic; you must have expected it, surely?


Ramon Insertnamehere said...

It looks like that woman behind her is thinking "now, where did I put that iron bar?"

squib said...

*cue waiter fly gag* Shhhhh, Pauline, everyone will want one

I've mentioned this before, Kettle, but I suffer from ironicphobia (the fear of misusing the word irony and being mocked by pedants wearing dicky bows). I try never to use it

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Squib, you need a lot more irony in your diet.

Kettle said...

An iron rod indeed, Ramon! And I love her sense of irony: wearing a 'Pauline' t-shirt while searching for her iron bar to hit said Pauline. Magnificent; one of Australia's greatest political commentators.

Squib I suffer from ocular ironicsmilephobia (the fear of over-rolling your eyes at people who use the phrase "...and s/he smiled ironically" while wearing dicky bows). We should start a support group; there's bound to be more people with such phobias.

squib said...

Ramon, oh dear oh dear

Good idea, Kettle. While we're on that subject, why do specialist doctors (you know, the ones you don't call Doctor because they are more clever than doctors) always wear dicky bows? And why do chiropractors call themselves doctors when we all know they are in fact idiots?

Kettle said...

A good question, Squib. Of the reasons I've come across, this, from some chappy called Warren St John in 'The New York Times', sounds like the most likely:

"Perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think."

Also, I think wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting that you don't anticipate ever having sex again.

I'm gonna need a whole website to cover what's wrong with chiropractors.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...


That was hilarious!

Razzgirl said...

There was a time when I would have compromised my principles for Troy Dyer. A delicious irony(?)!

Kettle said...

Ah Razzgirl there are some ironies that are just so right, aren't there? (Unlike Pauline Hanson, who's always wrong).