it's all ironic

One for the "it must have been a seriously boring weekend" files... Irony and Ignorance, an entire paper devoted to defending Alanis Morissette's song Ironic and attempting to prove that people who criticised her usage of the word are ignorant. I can only assume they wrote the essay for the hell of it, as people usually make a note if it was submitted as some kind of academic work.

How did I come across this gem? I made an aside about it in something I wrote in the middle of the night three years ago. The author found it, quoted it, wrote a snide remark and picked on the fact that I misspelled her name. Then they emailed me to let me know my page had been "reviewed" :)

Well I stand corrected - it's Morissette, double-s. My life is complete. However, I still think she was using what the author calls the "surface" meaning of ironic; and using it incorrectly. Honestly, I'm stunned that this person couldn't find a better topic to massage their pseudo-intellectual ego with. But then, I was picking on newsreaders' pronunciations so who am I to talk? :)

Update 2004.12.13: They're tenacious, I'll give them that. Years on and their page has been updated to include this post in addition to the original post on my homepage. Plus they continue attacking typos - clickclick, fixed now, thanks - since that's the sure sign of a razor wit. I'd forgotten about the entire thing until I noticed the site in this blog's referrer logs.

Since I'm here... Let's have a look at something you've said: People who have little or no understanding of irony could certainly choose a better topic than irony to lecture people about. Since you're a nitpicker of impressive proportions, I'd like to question your usage of the word "lecture". As recommended I have checked the definition of this word in several sources and found that - barring one suspiciously brief definition - "lecturing" is defined as a lengthy discourse on a given topic. I made a one-line aside. Given that you are able to produce an extended discussion on irony, I'm guessing you're not afflicted with an attention deficit disorder which would make a one-liner seem like an extended discussion. So I can only conclude that you are wrong. Look it up, sheesh, I mean wrong is wrong.

Oh and yes, I did imagine you only spent a weekend on your essay. I'd expect flatmates to step in and drag you away from the computer after that. Then perhaps a nice cup of tea and an explanation that perhaps, just perhaps, one might think a pop song would use the most popular meaning of a word; not a particular meaning known only to those who have studied the concept at length. So perhaps you are right, but given the context YOU are the one conferring an imagined academic exercise on the part of Ms Morrissette. I don't think she sat there yelling "hot damn! I can get some hyperbole in here!" To put this another way: I suspect it is nothing more than a happy accident that what Morrissette has described as "ironic" actually is ironic.

Finally, I don't think an extended discussion of a pop song is in any way more valid or useful than critiquing the habitual mispronunciations of certain words by newsreaders. People watch the news every day and confer authority to the faces who tell them of the day's events. As such, news outlets directly influence the way people see the world and the way they describe it. At the end of the day, nobody thinks Alanis is an authoritative source of knowledge.

On the other hand, you have quoted me alongside The Washington Post, the BBC and Moby (who actually has opinions worth knowing about); so I am rather pleased at the company my page is keeping.

But alas, time is short and I must be off. Time to eat, shoot and leave. You see, on one level I agree - wrong is wrong, and it does appear that Alanis can be proven right. The problem is that I doubt Alanis could do it.