Saturday, May 05, 2007

How many of the situations in the Alanis Morissette song are actually "ironic"?

Who's asking: Paul Tomme, Arlington, TX

Irony, for those of you who never saw "Reality Bites," is the use of words to express something different from (and often opposite to) the apparent meaning. It's also an incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

I overuse it, mostly as a crutch to hold myself aloof and pretend I don't care about things I care deeply about -- so much so, that friends don't always recognize it when I am being sincere, and take offense when I really do mean to compliment them.

9/11 was supposed to be the end of irony, but turns out to have been only a temporary interruption.

Anyway, the Alanis Morissette song is full of things that are disappointments, but not ironies:

A black fly in your Chardonnay (not ironic)
A death-row pardon two minutes too late (maybe, but only if the person being executed was a hanging judge)
Rain on your wedding day (not ironic -- in fact, good luck in many cultures)
A free ride when you've already paid (possibly ironic)
Good advice that you just didn't take (not ironic, without additional information)
Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife (not ironic)
Meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife (story of my life, but not ironic)

Two situations in the song do meet the criteria for irony, I think: the man who won the lottery and died the next day, and the man who was afraid to fly whose plane crashed.

It's another beautiful day, and I might go look at seedlings this afternoon. Someone has offered me garden space, and hope springs eternal.


Anna said...

You should go to Reny's and buy furniture for the porch! Do it right away and then you won't have to be bummed at the end of the summer that you never got around to it. Go now!!! Don't hesitate!

DC is freezing right now. Cold rain. Who would have expected that?!

My celebrity sightings for the week include Karl Rove, Patrick Kennedy and Bill Cohen. I was hoping for some great scoop on the DC Madam down here but the line between politics and prostitution.... know what it's like down here...the status of the only person whom we both know who is likely on that list will probably improve if his name were released. Of course, like any good (albeit former) Washingtonian, I'll wait to mention that name to you in person. You remember the rule here - "If you can write it, speak it. If you can speak it, nod it and if you can nod it, wink it."

See you next week!

Anonymous said...

Since I'm about to graduate with a questionably useful degree and a whole lot of philosophic trivia, I'd like to point out an alternate definition of irony. Socrates is continually accused of "being ironic" by the interlocutors in the Platonic dialogues. In this sense, irony is defined as the feigning of ignorance in the context of a discussion, generally to expose the actual ignorance of the other speaker. We can see expert application of Socratic irony today in the satirical work of Sascha Baron Cohen.

Also, Claire and Steve left this past afternoon, having had a wonderful weekend here in Annapolis. Looking forward to seeing you at the end of the week.


AnswerGirl said...

Thanks for that, Chris -- that false naivete is my favorite form of irony, and Stephen Colbert is another example.

Can't wait to see you guys at the end of the week -- take appropriate care with this week's celebrations!