Ironic, Part II

Jeff, thank you so much for reminding me! How could I forget about Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic,” one of my favorite songs when I was in middle school?

I absolutely adored Alanis Morissette when I was in the sixth and seventh grades. That was around 1996, when Jagged Little Pill was topping the charts. Everyone in my school was listening to Alanis.

(Side note: Wow, now I’m thinking about all the other music I loved back then: Hootie and the Blowfish, Oasis, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and especially COOLIO! I couldn’t get enough of “Gangsta’s Paradise.”)

I remember sitting in a van with several fellow students in Atlanta, Georgia, when one of the boys said, “The thing about ‘Ironic’ is that it’s not ironic; it’s just bad stuff that happens to you.”

At the time, I spent more time observing that we always remember the bad things in life more than the good things. “It’s like rain on your wedding day,” sang Alanis. Yes, it’s too bad that it’s raining on your wedding day, especially if you had planned a lavish outdoor reception, but isn’t it wonderful that you just got married?

Here are some of the lyrics:

Traffic jam when you’re already late
A “No Smoking” sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams, then meeting his beautiful wife

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
And who would’ve thought? It figures

This is a bit tough. At first glance, I see these lyrics as a juxtaposition of good and bad things than examples of irony. That juxtaposition doesn’t seem to be enough.

However, if some sentences are tweaked slightly, they make good examples of irony.

Some examples:

–”The T was running for free all evening following the fireworks. Ironically, I had filled my CharlieCard in advance, expecting to pay both ways, so I was unable to take full advantage of the free transportation.”

–”The only item I needed was a knife to cut the cake. Ironically, I couldn’t have asked for more spoons; there were enough for an army!”

What do you think?

About these ads

8 responses to “Ironic, Part II

  1. Almost nothing in “Ironic” is actually ironic.

    It *would* be ironic if a song called “Ironic” contained zero examples of irony, but Ms. Morrissette doesn’t quite pull it off.

    The sole example of irony in the song is the one about the guy who was afraid to fly and finally worked up the nerve — presumably to prove to himself that his fear was irrational — only to die in a plane crash.

    The rest of the situations our friend Alanis M. describes are inconvenient, disappointing, etc., but *not* ironic.

    If anyone would like me to explain why they’re not ironic, I would be happy to do so.

  2. Ah, the plane crash guy — now THAT is a perfect example of irony!

  3. I’m still not sure your spoons example fits. Perhaps if you had sleepily considered ordering Ginsu knives, then thought better of it and ordered spoons instead, then looked in your silverware drawer and realized that you had 10,000 spoons and no knives and now your credit account was overdrawn and you couldn’t order the knives after all. That’d be slightly ironic.

    But it’s also a massive run-on sentence and wouldn’t fit Alanis’ rhyme scheme.

  4. Ooh! Ooh! I found an error!

    “At first glance, I see these lyrics as a juxtaposition of good and bad things than examples of irony.”

    Perhaps you meant to add “more” between “lyrics” and “as”?

  5. I always thought that it really would be ironic if there was rain on your wedding day, and you were marrying the meteorologist who had predicted a sunny day. However, I can’t work out a way to fit all those words into the verse…unless you stretch the last beat of the first line.

    It’s like rain on your wedding day and you’re marrying the meteorologist who had predicted sun
    It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
    It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
    And who would’ve thought? It figures

  6. Sorry, I meant to say, “unless I stretch the last beat of the first line.”

  7. “The T was running for free all evening following the fireworks.” That set off my grammar alert instantaneoulsy. As my mother drilled into my head, something is either “free” or it is “for nothing” but “for free” isn’t correct. I can’t tell you what rule dictates that, but my mother was the grammar queen and her voice in my head allowed me to get an A+ in Language and Linguistics without having to study.

  8. I’m also an English major and for years I’ve listened to people go on and on about this song. Expecting each verse to be an example of irony is what my husband would call a rather literal interpretation. There’s one line toward the end of the song that embodies the irony promised in the title: “Life has a funny way / of helping you out.”

    It’s ironic that life helps you get what you need, rather than what you think you want. hmmmm… sounds a bit like a Rolling Stones song!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s