Sunday, March 13, 2016

Assessing the Ironic Twinge Factor for the Examples in Alanis Morissette's Song "Ironic"

I have been studying examples of irony, with a focus on situational irony.

Some background on this effort is discussed in this blog post.

You can view the current list of examples, and even submit your own example and values for the different properties, at this site:

It's All about the Twinge felt it, right? That twinge that hits when you recognize irony?...That's why irony is so difficult to pin down sometimes: sometimes, with irony--especially situational irony--you just have to feel it.

In Reversal of Expectations: An Odd Post on Irony on by Cherokee's Grip, Oct 19, 2012.

I have begun to hone in on using the "twinge" you feel when seeing certain types of irony. It is currently the primary indicator of what I am interested in. This twinge is the result of a number of factors that I am looking to continue articulating and quantifying for more and more examples. This (growing) list of factors includes incongruity, reversal of expectations, unexpectedness, "God(s) are messing with you", cosmic karma, and hypocrisy.

The purpose of the current post is to note the subjective "twinge" factor for each of the examples in Alanis Morissette's "Ironic". There has been much discussion and hand-wringing over this song with respect to definition of irony. Here, I am not judging the situations in her song relative to various definitions; instead, I am assessing it relative to that "twinge".

Note that, in my opinion, most of Alanis' examples are of the form "the universe is messing with you" - but if the degree of this is sufficient, it can still trigger that "ironic twinge" a little.

The twinge factor can have a value of 0 for no twinge at all, all the way up to 10. This is a purely subjective rating. A few examples I've come across with a high twinge factors are shown below.

"My manager told us we are no longer allowed to read at my job... I work at a library."
When someone writes "your an idiot".
Learned of this one from Universality and creativity in language (youtube) by Paolo Rosso.
A rabbit making a shadow puppet of a hand. From this pin on Pinterest.
A Few Examples with High "Irony Twinge" Factor

All of the examples from Morissette's "Ironic" have a low (subjective!) "ironic twinge" factor, but not all of them are zero for me. Do your ratings differ? Are they all zero for you? or are some higher? Please feel free to let me know at

Twinge Factor for Examples in Alanis Morrisette's "Ironic"
Situation Twinge
(0 to 10)
Rabbit making shadow puppet of hand.
This was not in her song - it is included for comparison purposes.
A free ride when you've already paid.
Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.
If it were just a single spoon, then this would be a zero. But the exaggerated degree triggers a bit of the twinge.
It's meeting the man of my dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
"Well, isn't this nice."

A traffic jam when you're already late.
An old man turned ninety-eight. He won the lottery and died the next day.
It's like rain on your wedding day.
It's the good advice that you just didn't take.
It's a black fly in your Chardonnay.
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late.
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break.