2008: Irony Definition

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Irony Definition
Can you stop glaring at me like that? It makes me feel really ironic.
Title text: Can you stop glaring at me like that? It makes me feel really ironic.


This comic presents a snapshot of an argument between Black Hat and Cueball. Black Hat states that it's ironic how Cueball understands the definition of irony, yet Black Hat is happy while Cueball is not. Cueball is upset because Black Hat is purposely misusing the term "ironic", likely after Cueball had previously corrected him on his use of the word.

Irony is a broad concept that is very often the subject of confusion and debate, especially concerning whether something is "really" irony. In this comic, Black Hat is probably referencing situational irony, which occurs when there is a sharp contrast between the expected and actual results of a situation, often in a humorous way or one that includes some sort of contradiction. For example, cane toads were introduced to Australia to control the native cane beetle, a pest to farmers. Ironically, the toads have caused massive ecological damage and become a pest themselves, and have even failed to control the cane beetles. That someone who understands what irony is would be unhappy while someone who doesn't would be happy is not an example of irony. Since Black Hat is trying to irritate Cueball, he is intentionally misusing the word "ironic".

Irony can have other meanings besides situational irony. Verbal irony (which is related to sarcasm) refers to a contradiction between a statement's stated and intended meaning. Dramatic irony is a device in fiction in which the consumer of a work is aware of information that is unknown to a character in the narrative. The adjective "ironic" is often used colloquially to mean strange, interesting, unexpected, or funny based on some subversion of expectations. The use of the word in these ways is often what prompts conversations and arguments about what really is or isn't ironic.

What could be going on is that Cueball was trying to correct Black Hat's misuse of the word irony, in order to make him feel bad about misusing it. However, Black Hat being the classhole he is, could have decided to take advantage of it, and misuse it again, to make Cueball angry again.

In the title text Black Hat once again misuses the word ironic, this time in an even more absurd way. It is unknown what Black Hat means when he says Cueball's glaring makes him feel "ironic", as this is a totally spurious use of the word, and one which is probably not intended to actually mean anything and is only done to annoy Cueball further.


[Black Hat and Cueball are walking together, with Black Hat walking behind Cueball with his arms out and palms up. Cueball is visibly upset, as evidenced by the squiggle floating above his head and his balled up fists.]
Black Hat: It's ironic how you know the definition of irony, yet I'm the one in this conversation who's happy.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Adding to the irony are the complaints from overeducated drama fans criticizing common uses of the term, assuming that "dramatic irony" is the only valid definition. Search "alanis morissette ironic misuse" for lots of fun with semantics and pseudo-intellectualism. I suspect that Randall is poking fun at the critics, rather than those who misuse the term. 17:56, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

  • I agree it's poking fun at the critics. The explanation should include correct examples of irony that even non-USA pedantics agree meet the definition. 19:03, 18 June 2018 (UTC)Pat

Should mention be made that a possible motivation of this comic is President Trump's misuse of the word "ironic" 11 days earlier in a tweet? [1] Heshy (talk) 18:40, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

Eleven days ago seems a bit distant to be an inspiration. It's not like this comic is infrequently updated.... 23:51, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

If sarcasm is a type of irony, is this question ironic? 20:19, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

Since when is Canada not part of America? :) RandalSchwartz (talk) 02:09, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

Incorrect interpretation

> The most common types of irony are sarcasm and paradox. Black Hat is using the latter

I think this interpretation misses the point. Whatever about sarcasm and paradox being examples of irony (I'm pretty sure sarcasm at least is not, paradox I'm not sure about either - irony is more about metacommentary than direct paradox), but Black Hat's statement isn't paradoxical anyway. Black Hat is using the term "irony" incorrectly, both in the comic and the title text. In the comic, be states that Cueball knows the definition of irony, implying that he, Black Hat does not. Cueball is angry that Black Hat is using "ironic" incorrectly.

Furthermore, the extra meta layer is that while Black Hat's statement is not ironic, the situation in the comic is ironic in itself: it's ironic that the Black Hat is choosing to use ironic in various statements even though he seems to imply that he knows full well that he does not know the definition of the word.

-- 06:45, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

I disagree with the paragraph 'Blackhat is deliberately using his ignorance of language to mock Cueball by stating that it is "ironic" that he is using the word "Irony" without knowing what it means, but is still the happy one. This is both the grammatically correct use of the word "Ironic" and arguably itself an ironic situation.' For one thing, if he's ignorant of the definition of Irony then he can't be deliberately using said ignorance to be ironic, but that's OK because he's not being ironic. There's nothing ironic about him being the happy one despite not knowing what irony means - I would imagine that's true of many people, whilst many irony pedants are unhappy. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The current explanation is incorrect. Irony can be defined as a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. Therefore, Black Hat is using the word correctly in the comic, as Cueball's idea that being right will make him happy opposes the reality that by understanding what is correct he is only frustrated when people use the word incorrectly. In the Title Text, Black Hat uses the word incorrectly to further justify the point made above, that Cueball's expectations are subverted because knowledge only brings him frustration. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I wouldn't say the explanation is absolutely correct, thus the incomplete-tag is still in there, but your definition isn't better than the current explanation. Irony is a statement, but an event can be ironic. Your third sentence overwhelms me and the title text is told by Cueball (Black Hat glares at him.) BTW: Please do not insert your comment into others and also do not forget to sign your post. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:01, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
Probably the worst explanation here for ever

First I've moved this following sentences to this discussion (small comments by me in parentheses):

  • The misuse of the word ironic when one means especially inconvenient is a common one, with a well-known example being Alanis Morissette's song "Ironic". (Not irony in many parts)
  • This issue represents one that exists on a larger scale with so-called "Grammar Nazis" correcting grammar and word choice in ways that do not affect the overall meaning. (This not about Grammar Nazis)
  • In the comic, Blackhat misuses the word ironic by saying that it's funny, because even though he didn't use a word correctly, he is not upset about it. (Slightly still in the explanation)
  • The title text then continues the joke by misusing the word 'ironic' as if it were a feeling. (Cueball just misspells something)

Then I've written a first draft, please help. And one more: It's ironic that a German native speaker has to figure out how the humor at this comic works. I'm sure I don't cover all. --Dgbrt (talk) 22:28, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

Major cleanup

Okay, I've pretty much reworked the page, hopefully in a satisfactory way. I think the incomplete tag can go pretty soon.
--Sensorfire (talk) 18:10, 9 October 2018 (UTC)

At the title text Cueball replies to Black Hat who glares at him as shown in the picture. I'm still convinced he says ironic when he means iconic. In this interpretation the sentence "It makes me feel really ironic" makes much more sense because Cueball is annoyed by Black Hat pursuing him. And unless someone explains why this view is nonsense it should be added to the explanation. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:33, 9 October 2018 (UTC)
Your view doesn't really make sense because it (1) doesn't really fit with the comic and (2) is a real stretch. As for the first point: the joke of the comic is that Black Hat is intentionally misusing the word "ironic" to annoy Cueball, who presumably has been pedantic about this. So it makes sense that this joke would be continued in the title text, with Black Hat misusing the word in an even more absurd way. As for the second point: Nobody uses the word "iconic" like that. It doesn't fit with the joke of the comic and it's a ridiculous usage that Cueball, presumably as an "ironic" pedant, wouldn't use. Furthermore, Cueball is shown in the comic to be upset and/or angry (with the little black line thing over his head). The word glare connotes staring at someone angrily, which Cueball would be at Black Hat for his crimes against the word "ironic", but Black Hat would not be angry at Cueball. He's just being his typical, sadist, classhole self. So, your view is totally ruled out by Occam's Razor, because it relies on a change in the joke, a character behaving uncharacteristically, and extremely unusual usage of 2 separate words. I'm sorry, Dgbrt, but your view really doesn't make sense.
--Sensorfire (talk) 16:14, 10 October 2018 (UTC)
There are not always correct explanations. But there are no crimes in this comic, Black Hat is just annoying Cueball while looking at him and not vice versa. The phrase "stop glaring at me" is a meme which also should be explained. Nonetheless: Black Hat glares at Cueball, I can't see anything else in the picture. An alternative view at the explanation should be valid.
Maybe irrelevant but funny, the are glasses called Ironic Iconic. I'm not a native English speaker so maybe there is something more I do miss.
BTW: I've moved the current title text section to the bottom. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:22, 11 October 2018 (UTC)
It's true that we can't always find the 100% correct explanation that captures exactly what Randall intended in every way. That said, I think this one is actually fairly clear-cut. In the comic, Black Hat is annoying Cueball by misusing the word "ironic". In the title text, then, it would make sense for this joke to continue. As to "crimes", there are no literal crimes in this comic. I was using an idiom there, though it's understandable if you didn't get that. As to who is looking at who, it's true that Black Hat appears to be looking at Cueball as they walk. However, he is not glaring. The word "glare" in this context could only refer to the definition, "to stare with a fiercely or angrily piercing look" or similar. Black Hat isn't angry. He's having a great time bothering Cueball. Cueball is angry. It's entirely possible that between the comic and title text, Black Hat passed in front of Cueball, or that the comic is actually an angled view of BH and Cueball walking side-by-side, or even that Cueball just turned around to glare. I don't know that "stop glaring at me" is a meme; an internet search for the phrase found nothing particularly memetic. If you can provide a good alternative explanation, then feel free, but I don't think many editors would agree with the one you gave previously.
--Sensorfire (talk) 14:10, 12 October 2018 (UTC)
Sadly no one else has an opinion here.
Furthermore I've to apologize for not saying thanks to your major cleanup; I typically say thanks before I criticize minor parts. Sorry for that.
But for the title text you still didn't convince me. Assuming that "Black Hat passed in front of Cueball" is a guess not shown or even hinted in the comic, meaning, this assumption has to be mentioned. Which still brings me to the view that Black Hat is looking at Cueball after he finished his talking, Cueball is irritated and annoyed and shouts back. But, gulled as he is, he used a phonetic similar word. But I assume you still fully disagree...
--Dgbrt (talk) 18:13, 12 October 2018 (UTC)
It's no problem at at all! The page badly needed a cleanup, and I had some time to kill. We're all just here to make the wiki better. ^_^
But yes, I really do have to disagree with your interpretation of the title text. It's contingent on an odd use of the word "glare" and an even more odd usage (and misspelling/mispronunciation) of the word "iconic". I know you're not a native English speaker, but nobody I know who is one would ever say that someone glaring at them "makes me feel really iconic". Take the Webster's definition of "iconic". None of these definitions are things that someone you know and are on a walk and in conversation with would feel if you glared at them. And again, how would this even continue the joke? I think your interpretation is oddly convoluted; it's certainly not something I would have ever thought of upon reading it, and I don't think most editors here would have, either.
On the other hand, the interpretation that it is Black Hat speaking makes more sense because (1) it continues the joke that was made in the comic, (2) it is within character for Black Hat to continue pestering Cueball by misusing the word "ironic", (3) it better fits the definition of the word "glare" (as Cueball is shown to be angry, and BH is not), (4) the only odd word usage involved is that of the word "ironic", which, again, continues the established joke and is thus expected, and (5) the only real potential problem with it is easily resolved. It is true that Cueball appears to be in front of Black Hat, which would make it odd for him to be looking at Black Hat. But I offered 3 possibilities above that resolve this (Black Hat could have walked ahead, it could simply be an angled shot of them walking side-by-side, Cueball could have looked back at BH), none of which are particularly unparsimonious or unlikely.
If we could get another editor to chime in, that would probably helpful.
--Sensorfire (talk) 20:34, 12 October 2018 (UTC)
I'm not sure I qualify as another editor, since I just made my account to reply to this thread. Maybe I will do some good editing in the future. But I am a native english speaker, and I have to agree with Sensorfire: no one would use the word "iconic" the way Dgbrt has described. I would have have made this assumption in reading the comic and don't think anyone else I know would have made this assumption either, because it's not a normal usage of english. I do think people would use the word "ironic" the way Black Hat did (and mean to say "ironic"), as people use this word in all sorts of ways to mean all sorts of things, including to pester people who struggle with other people using words incorrectly, as it seems Black Hat is doing here.
--Fivestones (talk) 16:26, 13 October 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for your remarks and explanations. Maybe I should go back to school... Nahh, I don't believe my former English teachers would understand this comic at all... I'll remove the incomplete tag soon. --Dgbrt (talk) 18:06, 15 October 2018 (UTC)

Suggestion, couuld we add the Narration from the code to this page? Narration: The narrator stands on a beach at night, staring out across the moonlit ocean.
Tooltip: And then a second one, to drain the ocean.
and PS I love ToolTip and wish we ccould use it always instead of "title text". 08:46, 14 October 2018 (UTC)

Your transcript belongs to this comic: 450: The Sea. And we're using the notation "title text" since the very beginning here, you're a little bit late for this discussion. And in fact it's based on the HTML-attribute at the image-tag. --Dgbrt (talk) 18:06, 15 October 2018 (UTC)

Maybe overthinking this one? In discussions, one would naturally expect someone who knows a words meaning (and is thus equipped to comprehend what it conveys in the discussion) to be happier than one who does not (and can thus only attempt to infer its meaning from context, or, if context provides no clarity, merely... wonder.) But in this particular case, Cueballs frustration with Black Hats ignorance is entirely due to his own knowledge of the words meaning, while Black Hats ignorance provides his bliss: The outcome is the opposite of what one would naturally expect from the given situation, and therefore ironic. On a deeper level, Cueball could argue this demonstrates Black Hat DOES, in fact, know ironys meaning and is simply PRETENDING ignorance deliberately and solely to frustrate Cueball (i.e. being his typical classhole self.) But Black Hat could then respond that it is possible (and common) to be unwittingly ironic, even about the very meaning of irony itself (which would be further evidence he knows ironys meaning full well, yet still not conclusive PROOF he does.) It is reminiscent of the Liar Paradox, with the added complication that stating a falsehood is not a lie unless the speaker knows the statement is false and intends it be perceived as true. 08:43, 11 January 2020 (UTC)

Definitely this ^^^^. The whole point of the joke to me is that when taken at first value, it is incorrect to use ironic simply to describe the negative relationship between understanding the word and not. Except that because it is that very instance of using it that is making cueball unhappy, that then becomes ironic. But then if it is ironic, then Cueball shouldn't be unhappy. But then if he isn't unhappy the situation isn't ironic and the word was used incorrectly, and so on. If the sentence was "It's ironic that you know the definition of stratus, yet I'm the one in this conversation who's happy" then that is the wrong use of irony, since the situation isn't really ironic, and would annoy Cueball. But changing the word to ironic makes the situation ironic since cueball shouldn't be unhappy, but he also can't not be...