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Misidentifying irony.

gunsGeorge Carlin has short essay about how common it is for people to misidentify coincidence as irony.

“Irony deals with opposites; it has nothing to do with coincidence. If two baseball players from the same hometown, on different teams, receive the same uniform number, it is not ironic. It is a coincidence. If Barry Bonds attains lifetime statistics identical to his father’s it will not be ironic. It will be a coincidence. Irony is “a state of affairs that is the reverse of what was to be expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result.”

Not irony. He goes on:

If a Kurd, after surviving bloody battle with Saddam Hussein’s army and a long, difficult escape through the mountains, is crushed and killed by a parachute drop of humanitarian aid, that, my friend, is irony writ large.


And then there are those who think something is ironic when it is neither ironic nor coincidental. The last line of this news story about a murder/suicide involving a woman best known for bringing a loaded gun to her little girl’s soccer game : ‘”It’s shocking,” Weisberg said of the shooting. “And sadly ironic.”‘

But this is not irony. This is not coincidence. This is a Chekhovian certainty.

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Craft Notes & Mean / 32 Comments
October 9th, 2009 / 1:37 pm