A pristine example of the continued dismantling of significance and meaning in the use of the English language is found in the word IRONY. Most people don’t know what it actually means and almost everyone thinks it means something else. Further, the word is used in the common lexicon as if what everyone thinks it means is real and correct and by virtue of being accepted as such, its warped meaning becomes true by consensus.
An example of this phenomenon can be seen in popular music, specifically one song, titled Ironic. This is not a criticism of the song or its spectacular author and singer; in fact the song is a personal favorite. This is an observation of a linguistic affectation manifested by the civilization dynamic, not a judgment. The lyrics of the song give examples of ironies such as, “rain on your wedding day” and “winning the lottery, then dying the very next day”. These are excellent lyrics as far as communicating the sentiment that the song is imbued with; one that aligns perfectly with what almost everyone thinks is irony, but it’s not. The ironies cited in the lyrics are actually examples of bad luck or negative causality, but not irony. So then, what does irony actually mean? Let’s look at the dictionary:
- the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
- a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
- a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.
The third definition is the one that gave birth to the word linguistically; its morphemic roots are tied to dramatic theater and form part of the literary forms that includes satire.
In conclusion, it turns out that irony is ironic; literally.