Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Irony

This month I'm participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. The theme I'm going with this year is writing humor. Follow along to learn more about the different ways to make your fiction, articles or blog posts humorous. 

Source Funnier Than Thou


I had no idea there was such a debate about what is truly ironic and what isn't until I started researching the concept.  And, boy! There are some heated discussions about this word out there. 

So, let's see if I can make any sense of it.

The definition of irony from Merriam-Webster is (pssst! Prepare to be confused.) 

1: a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other’s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony
2: a) the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
b) a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c) an ironic expression or utterance
3: a) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result; an event or result marked by such incongruity
b) incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony

Now that's as clear as my windows. (this was my lame attempt at verbal irony...because with this many little ones in the house my windows are wonderfully smudged)
Ok. Let's try this again. 
So, it looks like there are four types of irony. 
#1: Socratic Irony
Apparently Socrates loved to pretend he was ignorant of a subject in order to make the other person in the conversation thoroughly explain it. What a cheeky fellow! So, lucky him, this type of irony is named after him. 
Basically this is playing the fool in order to trick people into saying what you want them to. One example I found of this on-line was the old TV show Columbo. The character pretends to be a unkempt disaster of a detective in order to fool the suspects into revealing their guilt. 
#2: Dramatic Irony
Oh! I've just realized how much I love dramatic irony. This is where the audience or your readers know more about what is going on than the characters in the story, play or movie. 
One of my favorite examples of this type of irony is from the play The Foreigner. The main character, Charlie Barker is a shy man staying at a lodge. His friend, in order to make him feel more comfortable, tells the owner of the lodge that Charlie is from a foreign country and can't understand English. As a result, the people staying in the lodge carry on, talking around Charlie as if he isn't even ther. Oh! The secrets he hears! It is such a great play. 
#3: Situational Irony
So, this one is pretty easy. This type of irony occurs when you expect one outcome but get something different, or completely opposite. 
An example of this would be the person who sidesteps a puddle of water only to move into a neighbor's yard and get blasted with the sprinklers. 
#4: Verbal Irony
This is when you say one thing, but mean the opposite. Sarcasm is a form of verbal irony...well, actually there is some debate about that. But it seems the majority of people think it is. 
So, an example of verbal irony would be in Shrek when Donkey says, "Can I stay with you?" Shrek responds, "Of course!" 
"Really?" Donkey says. 
And Shrek says, "No." 
Did that clear anything up for anyone? 
One really great and easy-to-wrap-your-brain-around definition of irony I found on-line was in a comment thread from a discussion about irony on Daily Writing Tips. 
The commenter, Mike said, "Irony can be understood by imagining first that there are two audiences. In an ironic situation, something is said (or happens) whose significance is understood differently by each audience. The first audience is ignorant, and can only appreciate the event on superficial or literal grounds. Irony arises by assuming a second audience that is “in the know”, which understands the deeper significance of the event."
With that definition I don't think the Shrek example actually works as verbal irony. Hmmmm....I'll have to think about that a bit more. 
So, did you already understand irony? Or were you clueless like me? Do you think I got the definitions right? Do you use irony in your writing? 


  1. The cartoon is awesome.

    I am a big fan of verbal irony, though I never thought about it until I read your post.

  2. That image was the best choice for this topic. Socratic and Situational irony are my faves.

  3. Well, I use sarcasm in my writing occasionally. I thought I had a decent grasp on irony, but now I'm not so sure! LOL! I may have to come back and reread this later.

    Lyre at Lyre's Musings

  4. Oooo, I like your theme. I'm going to have to click back and see what I've missed =)