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What are the similarities and differences between “irony” and “sarcasm”?

Say I buy myself a CD of an album titled Scratch and the actual CD has a scratch on it; possibly by mistake. Would I call this situation "ironic", "sarcastic" or is there another word for it?


1 Answer 1


Sarcasm is the use of irony (which involves opposites) in order to ridicule something or be funny*. An event or situation itself cannot be sarcastic, but people and the things they say can.

I -and many other folks- would call your situation of having bought an album titled Scratch only to find the CD was itself scratched to be "ironic". Although it is possible to make a case that technically it is only an unfortunate coincidence, I would defend my use by pointing out that the expected state of any new CD is pristine. It's not a strong argument but the exact definition of irony is hard to pin down.

Now if you took the album back to the store for a refund and the clerk looked at you and said, "You bought an album named 'Scratch', what did you expect?" that would be considered sarcastic!

*controversal. Some of us are just lazy and misuse both the word (by calling coincidece irony) and the concept (by making jokes we shouldn't).

  • 1
    :) Thanks for the very informative and entertaining answer.
    – Paul
    Commented Jul 2, 2011 at 15:22

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