An online writing group where I hang out was discussing the meaning behind Alanis Morissette's 1996 song "Ironic" earlier today. A poll posted by Word Snooper Lexie Kahn got our attention when she asked "what irks you more: people who use 'ironic' when they simply mean coincidental or when dictionaries provide both the traditional and misused form of the word."
This naturally prompted us writerly types to debate whether the song actually does show irony or if it simply offers examples of bad luck. The group was divided on the topic, with just about equal writers on board that the song does, in fact, show irony while others said "no way" (I should mention, though, that it’s a small group).
Take, for example, the man who was afraid to fly but ultimately met his demise in a plane crash. That sucks, but there's not much irony there. Had he been driving across the country in order to avoid taking a plane to his destination, only to have a plane crash into him in his car…now, that would've been ironic. A black fly in your chardonnay? That sucks, too, but it's not very ironic. Of course, a song about things that suck isn't very catchy and probably wasn't what Alanis Morissette was going for.
I've always been a big fan of Alanis and I consume her songs as fast as she can put them out, so I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I like to think that she was being ironic by naming a song "Ironic" when it had no actual irony. Isn’t that ironic? Don't you think?
This totally ironic photo above is from Jeremy Wrenn.