Academia was in uproar following the publication of a peer-reviewed study, which claims to show that 90% of college professors don't understand irony any better than the average Joe. We are waiting for confirmation of whether or not this is the ultimate irony.
Roughly a quarter of the professors who took our calls felt that irony was "probably the same as sarcasm, but not as obvious." Another quarter said that irony is when you get the exact opposite of what you expected, in a way that - paradoxically - makes you groan and say, "predictable!"
One professor tried to argue that irony was "just something you feel in your heart, like jazz."
A high-profile Ivy League academic refused to provide her own definition, and simply quoted lines from an Alanis Morissette song down the phone. Surprisingly, the song she chose was Hand In My Pocket, rather than the more obvious Ironic.
This is certainly an unexpected twist, but we are yet to confirm if it meets the criteria for irony.
Most of the remaining professors, when asked if they could define irony, simply said "No-o-o-o!" in a theatrical voice and hung up on us.
One gave a lucid explanation that may or may not be true.
"Irony is when the literal meaning and the implied meaning are different," explained Marjorie Kenan, who is the Professor of English and Visual and Environmental Studies at Yale. "So sarcasm is a crude form of irony. Then you have dramatic irony, which is where the audience of a play knows more than the characters. The characters are saying one thing, but the audience understands something else. When we describe real life situations as ironic, it is because they resemble those kinds of scenes."
But could it really be that simple? If so, we tentatively ventured, it seemed awfully ironic that so few people understood such a basic concept as irony.
"Well it's not quite that straightforward," she admitted. "There are plenty of other kinds of irony, like Socratic irony - most famously practised by TV detective Columbo - but they all include that fundamental tension between what is said and what is meant."
One of her colleagues didn't seem convinced.
"Well it would be pretty ironic if her explanation turned out to be nonsense," he told us. "I think."