Ironically, uninformed people say mistaken things

That’s obviously (I hope) not an example of irony.

“Ironic” may be the most misunderstood and misapplied adjective in frequent use. It’s a tricky word; ironically, it can be hard to distinguish irony from its diametric opposite. But while it’s understandable and no big deal that the rank and file continually misuses the word “ironic,” one would hope that broadcast journalists in a major metropolitan area would know better, or at least that their producers would.

This morning, one of the Denver news stations ran a story about the wind-induced collapse of a stage at the Indianapolis State Fair that killed four people. The anchorwoman had something very close to this to say: “Ironically, an announcer warned the crowd of severe weather just a minute before the collapse.”

Okay, let’s break this down. Someone points out that the weather is getting nasty, and an element of that nasty weather nastily wrecks something. That’s irony? If so, then so is “Ironically, after spending eight hours in the Florida sun, Maine vacationer Charlene McGillicuddy suffered a terrible sunburn. Now, had the announcer in Indianapolis boasted that the facility had just received the “Safest Set-Up of 2011” from the American Association of Fairground Structures right before the collapse, that would have been ironic. Coincidence is not irony. Unfortunate timing, like last night’s, is not irony. In fact, I’d guess that in four out of every five instances of someone using the word “ironically,” replacing it with “not surprisingly” or “sure enough” would create a far more coherent delivery.

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