How the concept of irony is misused
One of the most commonly misused words you’ll find in American English these days, is “irony”. According to Wikipedia’s irony definition, it is the use of language to signify the opposite of the intended meaning, in order to evoke a “humorous or emphatic effect”. Irony occurs where someone unknowingly or deliberately says the opposite of something which happened or is happening. This is a concept closely related to sarcasm and satire, and quite often confused with them as well.
One of the ways “irony” is used incorrectly is in place of “coincidence”, such as when people run into each other and say, “Well isn’t that ironic!” Many times you also see it used (again, wrongly) to describe something abnormal or unusual, such as a warm day in November. Another type of misuse is when someone uses “ironic” to emphasize something of interest, like a movie they watched and really liked. There really are people who would say it’s “ironic” that a movie was the best one they got to watch all year. This isn’t ironic in the least bit, because there is no reversal of expectation.
Making an ironic statement
The chief trait of an ironic statement is that it brings out a meaning completely opposite to the literal one. When a person says something ironic, they don’t really mean what they’re saying. Sometimes the irony is so obvious that no person hearing it would miss it. If, for instance, someone remarked that the weather was “glorious”, despite it being evident that there’s a storm raging outside, this could be regarded as an ironic statement. For someone who’s clearly ill, saying something along the lines of “I feel like a million bucks” is a good way to convey verbal irony. Both of these are common examples of irony used in speech.
Sarcasm is one of the concepts irony often gets confused with. The two share similarities, although sarcasm is more often used to ridicule or mock, and carries a certain degree of harshness when put in words. Another type of irony is dramatic irony, which is where the irony of the matter is picked up by the audience, but not the characters inside the play. Yet another form of irony is situational irony, where a culminating outcome turns out to be very different from what the people involved were expecting. Incidentally, situational irony is the most commonly confused and misinterpreted from among the three, causing misunderstanding and misuse.
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