The word ‘ironic’ is known to be quite frequently misused, to the point that some dictionaries have actually started accepting the de facto usage as another definition, usually calling it situational irony.

Is there a better, more appropriate term for this construct?

  • Are you trying to avoid use any of the various of the word "irony" in the new term?
    – IPX
    May 19, 2011 at 0:35
  • 4
    – NateMPLS
    May 19, 2011 at 0:46
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    @NateMPLS: Ahh, I never dreamed as a kid that I would grow up and one day utter the words "I like the oatmeal" — but I do.
    – Robusto
    May 19, 2011 at 1:35
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    @NateMPLS, well there goes the rest of my night… :-|
    – Synetech
    May 19, 2011 at 2:43
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    @Syntech: Hahaha! Somebody referenced the Oatmeal here a couple days ago. I squandered a perfectly wonderful night that I will never get back! :-P
    – NateMPLS
    May 19, 2011 at 3:12

2 Answers 2


You seem resistant to the idea that situational irony itself is the most appropriate term for the concept. In fact, it has been recognized as a form of irony since the eighteenth century, and the term "situational irony" has been around for decades (here are two citations from 1960). There's nothing improper about it at all.

  • So then people who nag that the use of the term “ironic” is incorrect in that context are just being pedantic?
    – Synetech
    May 19, 2011 at 2:33
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    @Synetech: yes; and not just pedantic, but incorrect in their pedantry.
    – PLL
    May 19, 2011 at 2:53
  • So they’re dilettantes as well? Okay then; thanks.
    – Synetech
    May 19, 2011 at 3:40
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    Ironic, isn't it?
    – phenry
    May 19, 2011 at 13:21

The things that are incorrectly ascribed to irony fall into a few categories. Some are coincidence:

Ironically, I ended up in the same store as my mother.

Sometimes it's just bad luck:

I hate cats and ironically, my new girlfriend has seven.

And a more extreme example is just tragedy:

I was always afraid of getting cancer, then ironically I had a stroke.

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