Thanks To Alanis Morissette, Nobody Understands What ‘Ironic’ Means
Okay it's pet peeve airing day and I fell for this one too... Confound you, Alanis Morissette! We love you for your mastery of man-bashing music and of course your WONDERFUL command of the English language. We've all heard her song 'Ironic' where she's singing about a whole bunch of cruddy situations and how ironic they are, but the reality is that they really aren't ironic at all, nor are they all coincidences either, just really bad surprising luck. Here's why her song should be called "Aren't I an idiot, doncha think?"
First, here's some definitions of this squirrely term from Wikipedia (yeah I know)... Irony is:
"Both coincidental and contradictory in a humorous or poignant and extremely improbable way"
"A state of affairs that is the reverse of what was to be expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result"
For good measure, here's what a coincidence is:
"When something uncanny, accidental and unexpected happens"
Okay, in case you're still fuzzy on the difference, here's another entertainer with a much better grasp on words: the great philosopher, George Carlin delivering on the subject as only he can...
"If a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway truck, he is the victim of an accident. If the truck was delivering sugar, he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck was delivering insulin, ah! Then he is the victim of an irony."
So, when Alanis says it's ironic that someone who's almost 100 years old wins the lottery and dies the next day (highly probable because who BUYS lottery tickets at that age?), or a bug drops in your wine glass (just gross), or getting a death row pardon two minutes late (what judge or lawyer would allow this, really? Actually, nevermind), rain on your wedding day (sounds like fun to me actually), a free ride when you've already paid (poor timing or planning or both), good advice that you just can't take (stubbornness), the first airplane flight of your life crashing (you're dreaming), a traffic jam when you're already late (poor planning again), no smoking sign on your cigarette break (take twelve steps away from the sign), ten thousand spoons when you're missing a knife (you're probably in a silverware factory and the knives aren't far), finding your dream man and then meeting his wife (sounds like a typical communication or observation problem on both parties to me... if you didn't see his ring or his wife didn't come up in convo yet, he's no longer the man of anyone's dreams)...
These are what, everybody?? That's right, COINCIDENCES!
This is the song that put her on the map and is still her biggest ever, so what's that really say about us? Well, we can totally sympathize, that's for sure and after picking Alanis's vocabulary apart, I've gotta confess that I too sang this song at the top of my lungs while driving down the road and never gave the words a second thought. The tune is catchy and deserves to be a hit, just sucks that at least two generations of people now, mine included took her word for Dictionary truth just because we could relate to what she said. So, Gen-Xers and the young up-and-coming Generation Y, don't believe everything you hear or read (even this article.) Hold everything to the fire of research and see how it holds up.