We try not to be too pedantic here at Proofreading Towers. After all, language changes over time, and there\u2019s not much we can do to stop that. But there are some words whose widespread misuse makes us feel a bit sad, such as \u201cironic\u201d and \u201cliterally.\u201d\nIronic (Against Expectations)\nIn everyday language, \u201cironic\u201d is often used to mean \u201ccoincidental\u201d or \u201cunfortunate.\u201d The most famous example of this comes from the Alanis Morissette song, which lists a range of things that fit this definition of \u201cironic,\u201d such as:\nIt\u2019s like rain on your wedding day.\nThe problem is that a rainy wedding day is not technically ironic. The actual definition of \u201cironic\u201d is \u201copposed to what you\u2019d expect.\u201d Consequently, rain on your wedding day would only be ironic if weddings were notoriously dry.\n\n[caption id="attachment_2777" align="aligncenter" width="408"] Unfortunate, but not ironic.(Photo: Tom Godber\/flickr)[\/caption]\n\nThe word \u201cirony\u201d does have other meanings, mostly related to drama and literature. But all of these rely on the same basic idea of something happening against expectations.\n\nAs such, finding your lost keys just as you\u2019ve had replacements made is not \u201cironic,\u201d no matter how annoying it might be. It\u2019s just an unfortunate coincidence.\nLiterally (In Actual Fact)\nMisuse of \u201cliterally\u201d is possibly even more common than misuse of "ironic." It\u2019s also more problematic, as people often use \u201cliterally\u201d to emphasize a metaphor:\nWhen Alanis finds out, she\u2019ll literally explode with anger.\nWe wouldn\u2019t usually take this to mean that someone is about to actually explode. It\u2019s just a way of figuratively stressing how angry they\u2019d be.\n\n[caption id="attachment_2778" align="aligncenter" width="324"] The repressed rage is plain to see.(Photo: Justin Higuchi\/wikimedia)[\/caption]\n\nHowever, the original meaning of \u201cliterally\u201d is \u201cexactly\u201d or \u201cactually the case.\u201d As such, using \u201cliterally\u201d to emphasize something that isn\u2019t actually true is the exact opposite of this!\n\nWe\u2019re then left in a situation where one common use of \u201cliterally\u201d is opposed to its \u201cliteral\u201d use. Now that is ironic (in the literal sense of the word)!\nDoes Any of This Really Matter?\nYes, we know that using these terms wrongly doesn\u2019t hurt anyone. And so we try not to worry about it too much. But if, like us, you prefer to avoid mistakes in your written work, it makes sense to use these words correctly.