Alanis Morissette Recognizes It's Not Ironic

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Pour one out for Alanis Morissette.

For more than 20 years now, since the release of her hit “Ironic,” she’s had to hear every pedant, every SNOOT, and every 10th-grade English teacher crow that none of the situations in her song are actually ironic. The eternal question of rain-on-your-wedding-day has spawned two decades of thinkpieces (here’s the Times in 2008, Salon in 2014). “Ironic” even has a section on its Wikipedia page entitled “Linguistic usage disputes.” It’s hard to even talk about the literary device now without hearing someone lament the song. Irony, apparently, was described by Socrates, animated by Shakespeare and O. Henry, and killed by a 1995 radio hit. RIP.

Thankfully now Morissette may be free. Last night November*, she went on James Corden’s Late Late Show to reveal a new version of “Ironic” updated for modern situations. (“It’s a traffic jam… when you tried to use Waze.”) And, most importantly, it included this admission:

It’s singing “Ironic”
When there are no ironies

Here’s the video:

Sweet relief. Now maybe, as a culture, we can put this conflict behind us—until Lorde writes a song called “Metonymy.”


* Update from reader James Thoroman (posted by Chris while Rob’s away):

Unless I’m mistaken, the video was recorded last winter or before, not last night. I remember sharing it with my daughter during Christmas vacation. That said, the video is hilarious. I write this as both a dad who listened to “Ironic” with my teenage daughters and a technical writer who is picky about word meanings and usage.