Our latest candidate is one of the most mistreated and maligned words in the English language – and you could argue that its frequent out-of-context use is more than slightly ironic.

To be clear, ‘irony’ means two quite specific things. One is the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to convey the opposite of what they normally mean. Another is the gulf between expectation and result – the wider the gulf, the greater the irony. For ultimate irony, you can even combine the two.

‘Thank goodness the weather forecast predicted sunshine, otherwise I’d have been lugging that silly umbrella around all day,’ said Jon, as he fought his way to work through the downpour.

Just as importantly, given the word’s frequent abuse – what is irony not? Crucially, it shouldn’t be confused with a plain old coincidence – it’s not ironic if you go on holiday and bump into a friend from work.

However, the best explanation of irony we’ve come across here at Wordsworks Towers comes from the late American comedian George Carlin (above), who came up with the following example:

“If a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway truck, he is the victim of an accident. If the truck was delivering sugar, he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck was delivering insulin, then he is the victim of an irony.”

If you ever find yourself bamboozled by words, why not let Wordsworks’ team of business copywriters take the strain? Contact us today to discuss your latest project.