Determining What Irony Is and Isn’t

Image of store sign that says “CD Store” with an image of a old style vynil record

Source: Irony, mag3737, Flickr

In 1995, pop singer Alanis Morissette released a song called “Ironic.” Ever since its release, people have criticized her for not knowing what irony is. She calls many things ironic in the song, and some say that her examples aren’t ironic at all. Genuine irony is different from everyday bad luck and sad, annoying experiences. Does Morissette misuse the word irony when she applies it to certain coincidental events?

As you do this exercise, remember that the term “irony” includes those occurrences that are notably incongruent with our expectations. A coincidence is slightly different. It is an occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance. Some coincidences are ironic, but not all are. Here are examples from Morissette’s “Ironic” that are not in themselves ironic:

Here are examples from the song that are ironic:

Image of a New York Times newspaper with text altered to read after Morissette’s song Ironic

Source: “Aerophobic Dies in Plane Crash,” Mykl Roventine, Flickr

Now choose either “Ironic” or “Not Ironic” for each item. Hint: There are five examples each of irony and non-irony.