Irony vs Coincidence

It seems I’m encountering people every other day who use ‘irony’ when they mean ‘coincidence.’

One of the best explanations of the distinction between these two words I ever read is by George Carlin in his 1998 book, Brain Droppings:

Irony deals with opposites; it has nothing to do with coincidence. If two baseball players from the same hometown, on different teams, receive the same uniform number, it is not ironic. It is a coincidence. If Barry Bonds attains lifetime statistics identical to his father’s it will not be ironic. It will be a coincidence. Irony is “a state of affairs that is the reverse of what was to be expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result.” For instance:

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, ah! Then he is the victim of an irony. If a Kurd, after surviving bloody battle with Saddam Hussein’s army and a long, difficult escape through the mountains, is crushed and killed by a parachute drop of humanitarian aid, that, my friend, is irony writ large.

Darryl Stingley, the pro football player, was paralyzed after a brutal hit by Jack Tatum. Now Darryl Stingley’s son plays football, and if the son should become paralyzed while playing, it will not be ironic. It will be coincidental. If Darryl Stingley’s son paralyzes someone else, that will be closer to ironic. If he paralyzes Jack Tatum’s son that will be precisely ironic.

Are we all clear now? Cool.



“You don’t lick it off the rocks.”

I found a video clip with two of my favorite comedians of all time.

John Stewart interviews George Carlin in 1997:

George Carlin has been my favorite comedian since I discovered him in high school over 20 years ago. What I’ve come to see and appreciate from him as an adult is why he was great: he considered what he did art. And as an artist he had a strong creative habit which is one of the reasons he did what he did until he died (as he admits, genetics and luck also played a big part too).

Towards the end of the interview, Stewart asks Carlin, “You’re at a point in your life […] Why do you care so much?” To which he replies, “You wouldn’t say to Picasso, when ya gonna put those brushes down. Get ridda da canvas, ya done it! I’m an entertainer, first and foremost, but there’s art involved and an artist has an obligation to be on route, to be going somewhere, there’s a journey involved here and you don’t know where it is, and that’s the fun…”

Then, to put a cherry on top of the whole thing, Carlin tells Stewart at the end when they’re wrapping up, “It’s been great to know you a little, and you are going to show us a lot, and I look forward to it.”

How right he was.

Erotic Banana-Eating

Good morning, Internet world. I thought I’d start the day off with a family-friendly post.

China bans ‘erotic’ banana-eating live streams:

Chinese live-streaming services have banned people filming themselves eating bananas in a “seductive” fashion.

New regulations mean that live-streaming sites must monitor all their output round-the-clock to ensure nothing untoward is going on, keeping an eye out for any “erotic” banana-eating, according to New Express Daily. It’s not just fruit that’s on their radar though – the paper adds that wearing stockings and suspenders while hosting a live stream is now also forbidden.

This story is from the BBC’s ‘News From Elsewhere’ section.

What a name for a category.

Went I saw this story, I couldn’t help but think about a classic George Carlin bit (YouTube) from his standup special, Doin’ It Again (1990):

As long as I’m being a complete pig up here, let me ask you guys a question.

Let me ask one question of the men. Are you ever able to watch a woman eating a banana and NOT think about a blowjob?

I can’t do it. And I know why: I’m a sick, evil fuck! I admit that!

I can’t do it! Eating a banana, eating a pickle, licking on an ice cream cone. I’m thinking to myself “LOOK AT THE TOUNGE ON HER! WOW!”

So ladies, be careful when you’re standing out in front of that Häagen-Dazs. ‘Cause God damn it, we’re watching. And God damn it, we’re thinking!

C’mon, China. Reconsider.

via Twitter

This is why we can’t have nice things

The Verge: As gas prices fall, Americans are buying thirstier cars:

Americans really like their SUVs. The problem is that trucks and SUVs cost more money to fill the tank than small, more fuel-efficient cars. As gas prices rise, vehicle buyers have a powerful incentive to value fuel efficiency higher.

That’s partly why the fuel efficiency of the average new vehicle in America rose from a little more than 20 mpg in 2007 to more than 25 mpg by 2014. But then, nearly in line with a dramatic drop in gas prices, Americans began buying bigger, thirstier cars again.

George Carlin? Still right.