The dictionary defines irony as "the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning."

I also understand that irony is a form of humor. This phrase seems to me to be irony, but I can't tell, because I can't tell if it's saying the opposite of its literal meaning.

"What good would fingers be if it weren't for diamond rings?"

I would think that this literally means

"What good would diamond rings be if it weren't for fingers." But it's not exactly the opposite. Is this an example of irony?

  • No, it doesn't literally mean that. And the original statement is not irony. It's "surprise" humor predicated on a mild non sequitur.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 3:20
  • 2
    Yes, it's ironic, although reversing the order of the sentence reverses the intention to me. I think it means that fingers have no value other than for jewelry, knowing in fact (this is the irony) that they have great value but pretending otherwise due to materialism. That's the humor, since no one could be so greedy for diamonds to overlook what good fingers would be anyway. Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 3:22
  • Sorry, that's still not irony.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 3:35

1 Answer 1


You give definition 2a) from MWO (verbal irony), but I think this is more of an example of definition 3a) (situational irony):

incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result

It's not the meaning of the words that are the opposite of normal expectation, it's the situation itself. The speaker is speaking literally, however what he says is the reverse of what we think he'll say. A typical romantic lyric (this quote is from the song "Diamond Rings 2007") would be, "What good would diamond rings be if it weren't for fingers?", but he catches us off guard by saying the inverse. When he inverts the sentence, the meaning goes from romantic to ironic. An ironic play on a romantic lyric fits the song, because it is about a love that is no longer. (You can hear the lyric at 2:23.)

This may be a stretch, but I think it works. If not, then you could say it's just wordplay, something frequently used by Shakespeare

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