We are a small office and the spreading of earworms is a daily occurrence. This week I was troubled by a particularly annoying worm – Alanis Morissette’s Ironic. Infuriating not purely for the song itself, which is not TOO horrible, but the fact that most of the described ironic circumstances are just, well, not.
A quick visit to the appropriate Wikipedia page proves I am not alone in my criticism. Getting a fly in your wine is not ironic, just an fairly probable side effect of drinking in the garden. A traffic jam when you’re already late – bad luck (and maybe Sod’s law?). But, Wikipedia informs me these circumstances can, apparently, be described as Cosmic Irony! Huh – who knew?!
So, is ironic an example of a word which has shifted in meaning over the years? There are many examples of words which have changed to almost the opposite of their original meaning. Awful, for example, was originally a shortening of full of awe, rather than the modern, negative meaning. Some words, however, such as irony and literally (more on that another day!) have just been diluted to have, for some, a slightly different meaning (and for others just a source of annoyance). So, ironic goes from meaning a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used to becoming events and circumstances that might better be described as simply “coincidental” or “improbable”.
What do you think?
Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_13816447_motorcyclist-city-traffic.html’>dipressionist / 123RF Stock Photo</a>