I thought we’d all agreed that the definition of ‘ironic’ has changed?

Okay, everyone on my Facebook feed is sharing this video.

Personally, I use the word ‘ironic’ in an extremely casual way, and I’d be somewhat nonplussed if anyone tried to correct my usage. I kind of thought that the meaning of the word had changed, so that now ‘ironic’ is just an adjective that signifies any kind of incongruity, such as, for instance, the incongruity between the apparent meaning of a signifier and the actual intent with which it is being displayed. For instance, a person is listening to country music in an ironic fashion if they feel that they’re not enjoying it in the chest-thumping, America-loving fashion which they think it to be generally associated with.

Under this far looser definition, plenty of stuff is ‘ironic’ which did not used to be ‘ironic.’ For instance, the good advice that you just didn’t take? Totally ironic now. You can hate it, but that’s just the way the word is being used nowadays. And don’t bother pointing to a dictionary to refute me. Dictionaries don’t restrict the meaning of words, they merely describe (some of) the ways that words are actually being used.

Furthermore, everyone actually seems to understand the new definition on a pretty intuitive level. Or, at least, when I say that some beefy guy’s Hello Kitty backpack is “so ironic,” no one looks particularly confused. And that’s why it’s so jarring whenever people throw the 7th grade English class definition at you. It’s like they’re just trying to jam you up for no reason.

2 thoughts on “I thought we’d all agreed that the definition of ‘ironic’ has changed?

  1. Parker East

    i would be very confused about what you meant if you said that about the guy with the Hello Kitty backpack. Why shouldn’t he have that? “Because gender roles.” is a sad answer.

    The reason we throw the dictionary definition at you is because irony is a rich and highly specific type of incongruity. You have other words to say that. Why do you need to say ironic? Why not say incongruous, odd, sarcastic, inauthentically, or facetiously depending on the shade appropriate? If you lower irony to a simple synonym for incongruity then we’ll just need a new word to describe what is now properly referred to as irony.

    Or else we’ll just totally lose the possibility of communicating that in a word, and that would be a sad loss of lexicographic power.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yeah, that’s it exactly. He’s presenting clashing gender signifiers. You might not agree that I should use that term, but you do understand when I use it. I can’t argue coulds or shoulds or woulds with you, Parker. All I can say is that the work _is_ commonly used in such and such a manner, and all the arguing in the world isn’t going to change that.

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