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…When all you need is a knife might not be ironic, but it is unfortunate. Add your own verse, stanza, or story of badly-timed annoyance to Alanis Morissette’s classic:

Part of the problem with Alanis Morissette’s song, is that it’s hard for most people, including me and my husband, to define irony, or give an example of it. I think Alanis has receive undue criticism for examples she used rather than the overall idea of the song.

So, to be sure I knew what I was talking about, I looked at several definitions and examples, and find this the clearest:

1. the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to imply the opposite of what they normally mean
2. language used to draw attention to some incongruity or irrationality
3. incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is, or a situation or result showing such incongruity.

In the Wikipedia article connected to the prompt, Henry Watson Fowler, in The King’s English, says “any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same.” Also, Eric Partridge, in Usage and Abusage, writes that “Irony consists in stating the contrary of what is meant.” I like his term, “abusage” of the English language — it has a certain truth to it, from my experience.

I think I’m getting it now, but would agree that “hundreds (of definitions) might be given.” Examples are even more obscure — I didn’t get some of them.

This is not irony:

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures

What about this though? Doesn’t it show more irony?

Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face

What if she’d said something like:

It’s like life, is playing with me
Pregnant now but with no husband to share
Had a husband yet no baby came to love
Ironic to lose love and get my wish.

Sorry, I’m not Alanis, but that my stab at songwriting or song-thinking anyway. I think it’s a more ironic situation.

Did I get it right?

 

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