At times, people describe situations or events as ironic but they also say things in a satirical or sarcastic manner. This often causes confusion among people on whether to use irony, satire, or sarcasm to describe a particular statement or situation. Today, we will clarify the differences between these three words to keep your writing free from confusing points.
The term irony is used as a noun referring to “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect” or “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”
The irony! Jeremy McConnell sentenced to work in charity shop after claiming woman’s attractiveness dropped because she visited one
The Irony Of Salman Khan Inaugurating A Driving School Hasn’t Been Lost On Twitter
Melania Trump’s Anti-Bullying Speech at the UN Prompts Cries of Irony
Meanwhile, the noun sarcasm refers to “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.”
9 Completely Underrated Benefits of Being the Sarcastic One in the Room
Randy Newman to bring sarcasm, sentiment to Troy
The Daily Gazette
Viral: Online taxi driver shares video of sarcasm-fueled argument with passenger, gets fired
On the other hand, satire is used as a noun meaning “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”
Kingsman: The Golden Circle Is More Farce Than Satire
How satire got a cartoonist fired from a Jewish newspaper
The Times of Israel
McCarthy: Making political satire great again
Now that we’ve distinguished between irony, sarcasm, and satire, you will be able to integrate these words in your writing more easily.
Irony, satire, and sarcasm all fall into the category of, "That's funny but I'm not sure what my English teacher wants me to call it."
Irony describes situations that are strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected. Note the "opposite" here. If an expectation is black, then an ironic outcome would be white, not off-white or gray. Here are some clear examples.
Bill Hillmann, the author of multiple books about how to not get gored by bulls was the only non-Spaniard to get gored in the 2014 running of the bulls in Pamplona. (Cracked Magazine July 2015)
The Business Software Alliance is an an anti-piracy agency that used to pay people to report unlicensed content on the internet. The group has been caught using a "stolen" photo in one of their ads to attract new snitches on Facebook. (Cracked Magazine July 2015)
Satire means making fun of people by imitating them in ways that expose their stupidity or flaws.
In 2000, Saturday Night Live's satire of what happened in the [presidential] campaign became the conventional wisdom for what was going on in the campaign. (The Observer)
The late-night talk and news satire is scheduled to return with new episodes in February. (Los Angeles Times)
As with satire, sarcasm depends on the listener or reader to be in on the joke. Sarcasm is insincere speech. Your mom asks if you're excited to start cleaning the kitchen and you say, "Yeah, right," when you mean "Heck no." Take this exchange from The Hunger Games.
"What about you? I've seen you in the market. You can lift hundred pound bags of flour," I snap at him.
"Yes and I'm sure the arena will be full of bags of flour for me to chuck at people."
To distinguish irony from satire and sarcasm, remember that irony pertains to situations while satire and sarcasm are forms of expression. People make satire and sarcasm happen. Irony is just there.