What is the difference between a contradiction, a paradox, and irony? Can someone help me understand the difference between each of these words?

1 Answer
Jun 11, 2016

Contradiction: conflicting elements within the same system; Paradox: conflicting elements revealing a previously unknown truth; Irony: a resolution that is opposite what would be expected.


We tend to use these words more or less interchangeably, but each has a rather distinct meaning.

Suppose you were to move to Los Angeles to try to break into show business as an actor. You can't get cast in anything without a SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors' Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Actors) union card, and you can't get a SAG-AFTRA union card without first getting cast in a film. This is a contradiction.

The rule about needing a SAG-AFTRA card to get cast? It's intended to safeguard the livelihoods of union members and give them the first crack at any new jobs. This realization is a paradox.

The exclusionary union rules keep genuine ingenues--young actors and actresses, who are precisely the character types most unproduced scripts are written for, out of consideration and the roles must go to unconvincingly older thespians. This is irony. (This is probably not literally true, but illustrates the definition of the terms.)