Isn’t it Ironic: The Meaning of True Irony

Irony is, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result

People often confuse irony with coincidence. They say, “It’s ironic that I was just talking about you, and now here you are.”

That’s not ironic; it’s just coincidence. I also hear irony being referred to as something funny or odd, even random chance. None of these things are irony.

Situational irony occurs when a result has the opposite result as intended.
In dramatic irony, the audience is aware of something that the character is not.
Verbal irony involves a meaning that is different from the literal meaning.
There’s actually a website www.isitironic.com, where you can pose a question about whether or not something is ironic, and then people vote. I found this example on the site:

*Is it ironic that…

… …if you have a phobia of longs words you have to tell people that you have Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

I would say yes, this is irony, because someone with a fear of long words by definition doesn’t like saying long words. Yet the word for a fear of long words is an extremely long word. That is, in essence, the opposite of what it should be.

Here’s an example of irony I thought of. See if you agree with me.

*Most Bibles are printed in China, yet evangelists have a nearly impossible time bringing Bibles with them to China.

This is an ironic situation because the Bibles are already in China being made, but people have a hard time bringing Bibles with them into China. Do you see the irony?

It’s difficult to think of true ironic examples, because so many things that seem like irony at first end up being just coincidence. The best rule of thumb in my opinion is just to not assume something’s ironic. It’s better to not call something irony that is than continue to call things irony that aren’t.

What do you think? Any good examples of irony to share?

For further reading:

What is Irony?

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