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Frank Beard of ZZ Top: the embodiment of irony
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Said and done
Jargon, buzzwords, slogans
If a person who indulges in gluttony is called a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.
—Spider Robinson

Irony is the outcome of an action or event being the exact opposite of what was hoped for, or a disparity (often hilarious) between intended meaning and the actual meaning that comes across.[1] Oxford Dictionary refers to it as "a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result."[2]

It's best shouted out loud in an odd voice when you encounter something ironic. i.e., "Oh! the EyE-rOn-EeEeE!!!!" — do not attempt to actually write this on a forum post; use the irony meter instead.

Excessively many examples[edit]

  • Irony is the depressing fact that shootings lead to gun laws being loosened.[3]
  • Irony is the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum converting its electrical source to solar panels.[6]
  • Irony is PM Theresa May calling a snap election hoping to increase the number of Conservative MPs instead costing them their absolute majority.
  • Irony is that there are two brothers named Winner and Loser, and Winner grew up to be a petty criminal, while Loser became a detective in the NYPD after getting a scholarship into private school as a teen. Now they only talk when Winner needs money.[7]
  • Irony is that a country that until 1991 was named "White Russia" still uses Soviet economics.
  • Irony is not when it rains on your wedding day or finding 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Both of those are examples of bad luck.
    • Irony is also not the fate of Mr. Play-It-Safe who waited his whole damn life to take that flight only to have it crash, killing everybody on board. That is both bad luck and a bummer. However, if Mr. Play-It-Safe got to the airport, then chickened out and decided to drive to his destination, only to have that flight he'd waited his whole damn life to take crash on top of his car and kill him, that would be ironic. And a bummer.
    • Irony could, however, be writing a song called "Ironic" that doesn't actually include anything that's ironic. (Unless of course, God herself is smarter than we give her credit for and that was deliberate on her part.)
      • Except Mr Play-It-Safe's thought Well isn't this nice. is a disparity between the intended meaning and the actual meaning, and is thus ironic.
  • Irony is being freed from being trapped in an elevator, going to church to give thanks to God for your rescue, and getting crushed to death by a falling altar while you pray.[10]
  • Irony is Tina Fey Sarah Palin bashing the Canadian universal health care system — including her implication that they had "death panels" — only to reveal that as a young child her parents relied almost exclusively on the doctors of Canuckistan.[14]
  • Irony is:
  1. the fact that Washington National Airport — which is rated as having one of the most dangerous approaches in the world[15] — was renamed for Ronald Reagan, the president who busted the air traffic controllers' union (PATCO) in 1981;
  2. that Reagan National Airport was built as a result of a 1938 recess appropriation by FDR, the president whose legacy conservative Republicans have tried hardest to unravel;
  3. that Reagan National Airport was where, on 23 March 2011 — just a few months shy of the 30th anniversary of the PATCO mass firing — two passenger jets were forced to land after midnight without ground control because the lone air traffic controller on duty was sound asleep at his post;[16] and
  4. that regulators were shocked — SHOCKED! — that there was only one controller on duty that night to oversee what may be the world's most high-security air corridor[17] because, after all, isn't that one of the safety regulations that PATCO fought to… oh, yeah. Never mind.
  • Irony is also that union-busting Ronald Reagan led a large and successful strike as head of the Screen Actors' Guild.
  • Irony is when the organization devoted to promote the ideology of the above-mentioned author, which promotes itself as working "to introduce young people to Ayn Rand’s novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience" is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.[19]
  • Irony is when you text "I need to quit texting because I could die in a car accident," then drive your truck off a bridge.[20]
  • Irony is when you think gay marriage is a threat to children and press for an (unrelated) law that would impeach politicians for committing a crime while in office, then crash your boat while under the influence of alcohol, injuring four children.[23]
  • Irony is when a motorcycle club goes on a protest ride against the law requiring them to wear helmets only to have one of the riders fall off his bike and die from an injury that would not have killed him if he had been wearing a helmet.[24]
  • Irony is when HuffPo posts an article titled "This Is Why You Should Delete Facebook Permanently" the week after it discontinued its own comments boards in favor of comments boards provided by Facebook.
  • Irony is the fact that the phrase "loan word" is a calque, while the word "calque" is actually a loan word.
  • Irony is the fact that "non-hyphenated" is hyphenated, while "hyphenated" is not.
  • Irony is the fact that the phrase "it's not rocket science!" is often used to imply that a particular task is not complicated, despite the fact that the science behind rocket propulsion is actually very simple.[27][28]
  • Irony is when white supremacist gangs use a black subculture to express their hatred of black people.[29]
  • Irony is the fact that "Iron" is pronounced "I-ern," while the pronunciation for "Irony" is closer to they way "iron" is spelled.[30]
  • Irony is when a "Holy Roman Empire" is none of these things, as is the fact that most "democratic people's republics" are not democratic by any means.
  • Irony is the fact that several types of sex toys are made from vinyl and/or contain Bisphenol A (BPA), two substances that are known to lower the libidos of both men and women.[31][32]
  • Irony is the phenomenon that actually reading the Bible allegedly causes many Christians to become atheists.
  • Irony is a term originating pejoratively in a dystopian fiction novel being espoused by people on all sides of the political spectrum.[33]
  • Irony is a song being played at Neo-Nazi rallies when it was written by two Jews. Who were allegedly gay.
  • Irony is when a politician in the German anti-Islam party, Alternative für Deutschland, converts to Islam.[34]
  • Irony is that the law making French the sole official language of QuebecWikipedia went against Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's initiative to mandate bilingualism.
  • Irony is when some big corporations often targeted by anti-globalization activists have campaigned for causes also supported by the same anti-globalization activists.

Improper uses[edit]

The phrase, for example, "It is ironic that Jesse Helms died on the 4th of July," mistakes irony for coincidence. For any seemingly random event to occur on a particular day (a 9/11 survivor dying on September 11th in some other year, for example) is simply a case of improbable things happening.

Something like "Isn't it ironic that I should get pulled over for speeding on the one day this month that a speed trap is set up on my street?" somewhat mistakes irony for coincidence, but also mistakes irony for appropriateness. It is not at all ironic that someone would get pulled over for speeding when a patrol car happens to be in the area looking for speeders — in fact, one would question why such a speeder would not get pulled over for speeding in said area. Further, if the police weren't there, they would be unable to pull you over, so this would be less an irony and more a certainty.

In cases such as that, people often use the word "ironic" to mean the opposite of ironic (much as they often say "literally" to mean "not literally"), which is itself ironic.

We enter grey territory where some people accept the use of irony in a broader sense while purists vehemently protest. Critics include the Author of "The Oatmeal" who dedicated a cartoon on the subject and David Eggers wrote a ranting mini-essay against the abuse of the term irony at the end of his book "A heartbreaking world of a Staggering Genuis"[35]

An example given in Eggers' essay: "an ambulance carrying a patient to the hospital ran over and killed an old woman in the street". Defenders: It was expected for the ambulance to save a life and instead it took one. Critics: The two events (carrying one patient and killing a bystander) are similar but disconnected. While tragic it is not relevant. If the ambulance accidentally killed the patient that was in the ambulance, that might be ironic...maybe-perhaps. Another example: "It's like rain...on your wedding day." Defenders: Everyone had the image of a bright sunny happy outdoors wedding in mind and instead it is a cliché grey, drizzling and sad setting. Critics: While this bad weather is unfortunate, the weather in this case is in part random and is more a disappointment rather than the end result of a process or sequence of events...also Alanis Morrisette has set back the clock on irony diffusion: that is, the slow vulgarization of irony into an all-encompassing "hey that is unexpected" or "isn't it funny how things worked out". Defenders don't care as it seems quite likely that irony diffusion will prevail.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Sing it!
  2. Irony on Oxford Dictionaries
  8. Here's a list from the socialist WikipediaWikipedia.
  9. Economy Rankings, World Bank
  10. Missing Link ("Link" was the man's last name. Yes, it's a vile pun. But, at least it's not our vile pun.)
  11. Conservatives Revel In Obama's Olympic Bid Failure, The Huffington Post
  12. The Tea Party raises its own debt ceiling, borrows $1 million
  13. Jack Bauer's grandfather is…Wikipedia
  14. Palin Crossed Border For Canadian Health Care, The Huffington Post
  15. The Most Dangerous Runways of the World
  16. Air controller slept as planes landed in Washington, Reuters
  17. Lapse at air tower leads to 'outrage', USA Today
  18. Yes, Wal-Mart does have that much power.
  19. Right here. Check the bottom of the page.
  20. Man texts 'I need to quit texting' then drives off bridge
  21. GOP head tweets funny jokes about Filner and Weiner, then gets arrested for sexting with teen
  22. Mormon Mom Who Fought for Prop 8, Now Fights for Gay Son, ABC News
  23. Lawmaker who thinks gays a threat to children crashes boat into children (He later got charged for another DUI and "illegal crabbing." Yes, illegal crabbing.)
  24. Motorcyclist Dies On Ride Protesting Helmet Law In New York, The Huffington Post
  25. "The 5 Most Hilarious Ways Anyone Ever Failed at Their Job", Cracked
  26. Paul the Octopus lives! (Filming it in advance was rather an act of gambling in itself, wasn't it?)
  27. Expansion of a gas or liquid due to combustion, evaporation or pressurisation creates a downward force, which due to Newton's Third Law of Motion, creates an equal force in the opposite direction, forcing the rocket upwards. The engineering however, is complicated.
  28. The rocket equation may be essentially simple, but it was too much for Richard Hoagland
  30. Although "irony" pronounced like iron does mean "of, containing, or pertaining to iron", like watery does for water.
  35. Eggers, D., Graham, D., & Recorded Books, L. (2010). A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (Unabridged.). Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books.