I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “Ironic,” lately, and the Alanis Morissette song by the same name. She’s been given a lot of grief about how the examples sung in her song are anything but ironic. Her song has been used by linguists and grammatical purists for a number of years as the prime example, the epitome of word misuse in today’s modern culture. “Ironic” does not mean “coincidence” they insist. “Alanis is really singing about coincidences,” they pronounce with all the authority and weight that their educational credentials can muster.
“Ironic” according to theFreeDictionary.com means: “The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.” The example Google gives is: “it was ironic that now that everybody had plenty of money for food, they couldn’t obtain it because everything was rationed.” However, after thinking long and hard about this, I have come to the conclusion that the criticism Morissette has received for her song is overly excessive and maybe even unwarranted.
First of all, for Pete’s sake, it’s just a song. Second of all, if not one of the examples in her song is actually an example of something being ironic; isn’t that Ironic given the song’s title? So, maybe, Morisette is smarter than people give her credit for being and maybe the people who think they are so smart really aren’t as smart as they think. That really is ironic. Isn’t it?
I suppose the point I am really trying to make with this apparent random thought is, as a rule, being too quick to judge somebody you have a knee-jerk tendency to want to criticize because you assume you are so much smarter than they are may serve to only expose your own ignorance. And how much better would it be if people simply found out where the other person was coming from, thoughtfully, respectfully and without the need to introduce so much unnecessary conflict?
If we applied this new respectful attitude of civility to our political process, how much more do you think congress, the President and our nation could accomplish? I bet we could accomplish a lot. Also, how much better would we be able to standup against external enemies who threaten our core values of liberty, justice and freedom? I think our nation really needs an attitude adjustment. If we don’t get that adjustment, it may or may not be ironic, but, it will certainly be disappointing and potentially very dangerous. If we are unable to unite soon enough against common external enemies hostile towards our ideas of religious tolerance, freedom, liberty and justice for all; we may be singing an entirely different song and it won’t be Ironic.