Wednesday, April 10, 2013


            I remember when I was a little boy and my mother would go through my pockets as she did laundry and she’d find all sorts of things, rocks, paperclips, toys, bottle caps, bits of string and lots of dirt. I don’t recall why I had collected those items and put them in my pockets, but I did. I’m sure I had some purpose for them more than being an annoyance to my mother.

            I started this morning writing about the differences between irony and coincidence. In my brief research into the subject I realized it is a swelled and complex issue with far too much sub-text to delve into so early in the day. I mean there’s a lot going into the very definition of irony that I can’t be sure I even know what it means anymore. The most reasonable definition I found of irony is “the literal meaning is opposite to the intended”; so, for example, “clear as mud”, or “hard as a cloud”.

            We know mud is thick and difficult to see through and that clouds are vapor and likely soft. So the literal meaning is different than the intended meaning. This of course has to assume the listener or reader is aware that mud is difficult to see through and what clouds are made of for the irony to be effective. Otherwise the irony is lost on them.

            But it still doesn’t change the confusion between coincidence and irony that I hear all too often. Let’s say you’re talking about Jack Nicholson to a friend in a passing conversation and later, when you get home, you turn the TV on and there’s a Jack Nicholson movie playing. That’s not ironic. It’s a coincidence. However, if you were talking to Jack Nicholson about Jack Nicholson and he said he’d never act in another movie and he goes home, turns on his TV and there’s a movie on about you, then that would be ironic.

            A friend of mine recently wrote a wonderful piece about real Chicago Firemen and how she just couldn’t stomach the show, “Chicago Fire”, because she’d seen the real thing. I found out yesterday that the building next to my offices, a former Police station, will be used in the coming weeks for some location shooting for the very same television show, “Chicago Fire”. This is a coincidence. It only has significance because my friend wrote about it so recently and it was fresh on my mind. It may seem ironic, but it’s not.

            This “Chicago Fire” coincidence is what brought this whole article into my mind actually.  I’m not sure what else I had to say about it. It was just rattling around in the old brain box and needed to be hosed off and put on a shelf. Just one of the things I had in my pockets I guess. 


  1. Sorry, Mike, but I beg to differ with you about your second Jack example--I don't think that would be irony either (if I read your set-up correctly.) Jack tells me he's not going to act in any more movie, goes home, and sees a movie about me? I would think it is closer to a coincidence than irony, but I have not actually looked at any definitions.

  2. But what are the odds that you'd be in a movie? It's situational irony. But again, Irony is difficult to define as there are many forms: verbal Irony, Dramatic Irony, and Situational Irony. But I appreciate your comment and hope you continue reading, Anonymous. :)