Difference between revisions of "Oxymoron"

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* ''same difference''
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Oxymorons that express a criticism include:
Oxymorons that express a criticism include:

Revision as of 22:25, 12 March 2011

Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two terms which are polar opposites are used together for rhetorical effect, or criticized because they are self-contradictory as in "pro-life Democrat." In the past, rhetoric and elocution were standard school subjects and students were taught long lists of technical names of figures of speech and their meaning. Oxymoron was one of these, along with simile, metaphor, metonymy, etc. True oxymoron is relatively rare; one well-known example occurs in Tennyson's Idylls of the King:

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.[1]

Another occurs in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet," when Juliet tells Romeo

Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow.[2]

Arthur Koestler's book title, Darkness at Noon, is another example.

Among classical Greek authors, Sophocles was known for his fondness for the device.

Since the word oxymoron is derived from the Greek roots oxy, sharp, and moron, dull, it literally means "sharp-dull" and is thus itself an example of an oxymoron.

There is also a punlike form of humor which consists of observing or claiming that certain phrases are oxymorons. While not new, It was popularized by Warren Blumenfeld's 1986 book, Jumbo Shrimp & Other Almost Perfect Oxymorons: Contradictory Expressions That Make Absolute Sense. In literal fact, what is being pointed out is an amusing contradistinction.

Originally it played on the fact that many listeners remembered they been taught what an oxymoron was in school, but could not remember what it was. The context would have been something like this:

Humorist: "Jumbo shrimp?" That's an oxymoron.
Mark: [Realizes he should know the word... his ten-grade English teacher drilled him on it... but can't quite, and is forced to ask]: A what?
Humorist: An oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.
Mark: (Thinks about it, remember realizes that although "Jumbo shrimp" is a real expression, "shrimp" means small and "Jumbo" means large, and rolls on the ground laughing helplessly).

The device has now become so common that the word oxymoron has come to mean this form of humor, which is entirely unrelated to the original meaning of the word. It is often employed to make a political point. It rarely reveals any actual meaning; "Military intelligence is an oxymoron" does not actually point out anything intrinsic in military structure or thinking; it merely puns on the meaning of the phrase "military intelligence" and is just a tricky way of delivering an insult.

Examples of the modern, joking usage:

  • Heroic villain - Since villains are bad, calling one heroic is an oxymoron.
  • Friendly vandal - A flaw similar to the one above.

Examples of modern, serious usage:

  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Real nightmare
  • same difference
  • expect the unexpected
  • classic rock

Oxymorons that express a criticism include:

  • Harvard Divinity School
  • gay charity (the homosexual ideology is entirely selfish)
  • pro-life Democrat
  • evolutionary science[3]
  • liberal Christian[4]
  • "Military intelligence" - often used by liberals to smear the Armed Forces
  • conservative professor - the process of obtaining a PhD and professorship is so politicized that liberals simply exclude conservatives

External Links


  1. Lancelot and Elaine, Tennyson, Idylls of the King
  2. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2
  3. The theory of evolution is pseudoscience [1][2][3]
  4. Liberal values are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christianity (Abortion, Homosexuality etc).