Thursday, September 8, 2011

Irony: Enough Already

As a language monger, few things upset me as much as the misuse of irony.

Somehow, in common language, folks believe irony to be synonymous with coincidence. Listen to this NPR piece about Billy, a San Fransisco Giants fan gone missing. (you have to listen or read the transcript--it isn't in the article text) Did you hear Robert Siegel try to correct Giants manager Bruce Bochy at one point? SIEGEL: Just before you go, you mentioned that by coincidence... Bochy goes on to abuse irony one more time.

Enough folks.

Irony does not equal coincidence. In fact, the two are almost opposites.

Take this definition of irony: an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. Read more at

In the Giants story, one might have expected a team's "good luck charm" to cause a problem for the team after he disappeared. Irony? Not hardly.  

I love teaching Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" along with irony; few stories have such robust examples of true irony which are accessible to average high school students.  Within this short piece, students can find dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony. A triple play.

Read "The Cask of Amontillado" online for free.  Nothing fortunate about Fortunato's experience, is there? 

By the way, Billy, wherever you are, the Giants miss you. Take care, okay? 


Cate Gardner said...

Oh man, I feel I need to take you down with me...

Muahaha (or not)

Katey said...

Balaji calls me the IRONY POLICE. Any time someone on TV uses the word I go on red alert, and they INEVITABLY use it to mean coincidence, and my eye begins to twitch. He's actually called me out of the office, rewound TV shows, and played instances of people misusing that word when he's heard them alone.

I'd complain about my evil husband, but I'm worse, so I can't.

Yes. Enough.

And yes. Amontillado. That's my favorite!

Aaron Polson said...

Oh, Cate. Did you have to go there? ;)

Katey - I watched a live radio broadcast of Poe tales (oh, what they used to make sound effects for "The Tell-Tale Heart"). "Amontillado" was the finale and a fine capper.