Anironic – The opposite of Ironic

Posted by in Musings




Irony is a concept that is well established in our society.  Movies, television shows, theater and novels constantly employ them to provide comedic and/or dramatic value.  Through it’s employment, it evokes stronger emotional reactions of sympathy.  Just as a reminder, irony is defined as “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite.”  And to further elucidate, something that is ironic is defined as “1) Using or characterized by irony, or 2) Happening in the opposite way to what is expected.”  A classic example of irony includes Britain’s largest dog ever recorded was named Tiny. I intentionally underlined the above definition because it will be the concept I focus the majority of my attention.  We’ll come back to this shortly.

One day, my old roommate brought up an interesting point–why isn’t there a word that means the opposite of ironic.  Obviously he didn’t mean “a happening in the EXACT way to what is expected.”  Situations like that are just “obvious,” “fitting” or rather “just makes sense.”   It seems fitting that the physician’s kid grows up to become a physician.  Instead, Mark was referring to those extremely rare scenario’s where “a happening occurs in the way you would expect, despite the incredible improbability of it.” He coined the term anirony, and it adjective form anironic.

The definition is difficult to explain, so I’ll explain myself more clearly through examples.  Let’s think of fictitious character named Andrew Fish.  It would be ironic if Mr. Fish was deathly afraid of water and couldn’t swim.  However, it would be anironic if he was the fattest swimmer in the world.  With a name like Fish, you would almost expect him to know how to swim, but due to the low probability of being one of the best makes it more anironic than “fitting.”  It would be more appropriate to say it’s “fitting” that Mr. Fish is a swimmer given he has a lineage of swimmers in the family history.

The key distinction between these last two terms is based on probability.  If the likelihood of the “happening” occurring is <1%, that would be anironic, and anything >50% would be “fitting.”

A real world example of anriony is the story of a murderer’s son who becomes a murderer himself.  The article in Wired magazine mistakenly uses the term “ironically,” describing “the disturbed teen, ironically the son of a convicted murderer who’s serving a life sentence.” This situation is rather anironic, because it happens as expected, and not opposite of what is expected.  Granted this scenario could be argued as fitting, but either way you view it, ironic is not the correct usage of the word.

Personally, I think it’s a brilliant concept.  I recognize the circumstances that one can use anironic in general conversation are few and far between, but when there are those moments when you can use it properly will surely impress you friends.  Just don’t let them know it’s not a real word….not yet at least.

(In case you haven’t noticed yet, the thumbnail image for this post is anironic! Larger image is below)