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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Definition of Ironic?

Ironic is a difficult word. I don't completely understand how to use it. A while ago Peter and I were trying to define it (this is what nerds do for fun on a Saturday night). Despite the fact that it is a word tossed about frequently in conversation, neither of us could come up with a great definition.

So we consulted dictionary.com and realized that this lack of understanding is way bigger than just Peter and I. It affects our whole society- perhaps even you! It turns out that ( at least according to dictionary.com) ironic may be one of the most abused words in the English language. A lot of what people think is ironic, technically isn't. Like Alanis Morrissette's song that is replete with un-ironic statements.

I think I understand it in its simplest sense: It would be ironic if were to say "what a nice day" if it were raining cats and dogs outside. In that situation I would intend to convey the opposite of what I actually said. That incongruity between the literal and intended meaning being a basic definition of irony. I don't have a good grasp of the word when it comes to describing more complex scenarios.

But Peter related a story to me when he got home form work a few mornings ago and I thought, this is ironic. This has to be ironic. What do you think?

There was some disturbance in the ER (he didn't know exactly of what nature, disturbances of all kinds being commonplace in the ER) so security guards were roaming about. Peter's colleague, a petite, 20-something female, made an offhand comment to a few of the guards. She said something along the lines of "you guys are intimidating". She said it in a lighthearted way, in passing and thought nothing of it. Until later on that night when she walked passed the security guards in the hall speaking with her supervising physician. She overheard them say that they were upset by her remark. They had called their boss, they were now speaking to her supervisor. They were really taking this one all the way to the top.

Please tell me, is this not ironic on so many levels? It's like a parfait of irony. (Unless I really don't understand the term...)

You might have some of the same questions that ran through my mind at this point such as: "They're insulted at being called intimidating? Is that not their job?" or "Are these security guards 13 year old girls?"

Let's just give them the benefit of the doubt and pretend for a moment that she was being intentionally derogatory with her comment. Even then, to actually be offended by one rude remark from a young female would require extraordinarily delicate sensibilities for people who routinely deal with gun-wielding, curse-spitting, disease-ridden ER patrons.

On the other had, if they thought she was being genuine and were genuinely offended that she found them to be intimidating, well then, I think its time to find some people who have a better understanding of the job description, don't ya think?

This has to be some form of irony, am I right? Put that in a song, Alanis!

1 comment:

Vanessa Rogers said...

ha ha. That is an ironic story :)