Oxymorons

Oxymorons can be fun. Two words that can have contradictory meanings are put together to create a new phrase. Or it can be expanded to mean two separate thoughts or ideas that are in direct conflict with each other but when combined create something new.

For example, if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle, you can see the humor in the description “office space.”

Think about these for a second: “no comment” or “whole part.”

And what about a “loud whisper”? Is anyone wearing a “medium large” shirt today? Is it “wicked good”? Did it leave you “barely clothed”?

Please try to avoid using them in your novel or nonfiction work. Like clichés they can make you sound kind of silly. Unless you are Shakespeare who wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Then you sound brilliant.  Also in that same play he wrote, “O brawling love! O loving hate! . . . O heavy lightness! serious vanity! Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms! Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health! Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is! This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”

Even historians created one that is a head-scratcher when you think about it. The Civil War. How can war be civil?

You, as someone who is serious about their craft, need to watch out for ones that have become part of our everyday speech, like “ill health” or “passive aggressive” or “random order” or “found missing.” You get the idea.

There is a website that has a list of hundreds of oxymorons: www.oxymoronlist.com

Did you know that the word oxymoron is an oxymoron? Oxy comes from the Greek word for “sharp,” oxys. Moron (I’ll bet you can guess this one) comes from the Greek word for “dull,” moros. (No, it isn’t the Greek word for Steve.) Therefore, an oxymoron is a “sharp-dull” combination of words.

Have a great day!
(Only you will know if that was an oxymoron.)

18 Responses to Oxymorons

  1. Avatar
    Tuvia Pollack July 22, 2019 at 5:44 am #

    Mr. Laube, I dare say that you wrote this “fine mess” “accidentally on purpose.” It was an “awfully good” blog post, but one that triggered a “minor crisis” as my “objective opinion” is that I will be stuck on this oxymoron website for years…

    I want to point out that the website is not perfect though. Some of the oxymorons on that website are not oxymorons at all. It might be “funny” to say that “military intelligence” or “middle east peace” are oxymorons, but it’s not very true. Also, saying that “midnight sun” is an oxymoron just shows ignorance on the part of whoever made that list. Midnight sun can be spotted close to the poles in the middle of summer, when the sun doesn’t set at all for a few days.
    However, I’d say that the website seems to be at least mostly helpful.

  2. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 22, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    Did He find it quite ironic
    as He played His final part,
    and perhaps oxymoronic,
    that expression, ‘human heart’?
    He came with Love for every man
    cor cordium to rock the world,
    to bring us home was the plan,
    but ’twas not how things unfurled.
    He wept as we turned away,
    dull hatchlings bent on misery,
    who in the mire would rather play
    than mount the wings of Victory.
    Such dichotomy we bade Him bring;
    Christ, our beloved servant-king!

    ‘cor cordium’ is Latin for Heart of Hearts

  3. Avatar
    Holly July 22, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    AH Ha ha ha! This is such an informative and highly inspiring post — Thank you! Makes me also think of poetry like the Jabberwock with word descriptions..

  4. Avatar
    Randy Haglund July 22, 2019 at 6:42 am #

    My favorite is “military intelligence.”

  5. Avatar
    Sharon K Connell July 22, 2019 at 6:49 am #

    (Slaps head after reading the first comment) LOL

    Thanks for this tip, Steve.

    However, I think a good oxymoron is appropriate when it fits the situation. Perhaps in a scene where the character is frustrated by another and says, “No comment,” but then goes off on a tangent about what the person is doing or saying. Something like that would be humorous.

    When it comes to dialogue, you do want the writing to sound natural, so (like a cliche) if it would be normal for your character’s personality to use the oxymoron, I say go for it. Just don’t overdue it to the point of irritating your reader.

    Narrative is a different situation. You want to show your skill as a writer so avoid those cliches and oxymorons.

    I find some of them are just plain ridiculous. Except when your reading them in Shakespeare’s works. Now who in their right mind is going to tell the Bard he shouldn’t have used them??? Hmmm?

  6. Avatar
    Gracie Malone July 22, 2019 at 7:49 am #

    Maybe we should legitimize them, or at least some of them, since they help us express our complicated thoughts so well. Good to read your posts Gracie Malone

  7. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver July 22, 2019 at 8:26 am #

    Steve, you not only left us last week with something to laugh over; you started us this week with some chuckles. Was it “accidentally on purpose?”

    I have to disagree with some on the link you posted, however. Maybe I just don’t get it–but what’s wrong with “airline schedule”?

  8. Avatar
    Bob July 22, 2019 at 2:53 pm #

    What I may have missed is: Large shrimp.

  9. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca July 22, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

    I have an oxymoron that is very close to my heart. “Kinestatic” is a word my husband coined in the 80’s to describe an imaging device he had invented: the Kinestatic Charge Detector. (you can google it).

    I, of course, think it is a brilliant word. It describes something that is moving in one frame of reference (kinetic) while still in another (static). (Walking on a treadmill is an example.)

    Frank and I even discussed the word with an assistant to the editor of the OED to see if it could be included. It wasn’t because it is not in widespread usage. Hmph.

    I used this non-word in my novel and I intend to use it in every book I write until those folks at OED recognize it to be an “awfully good” word!

  10. Avatar
    Melanie Jones July 22, 2019 at 11:49 pm #

    Do redundancies next please? If I hear one more TV chef say he’s going to reduce it down, I’m going to scream!

    • Avatar
      Judith Robl July 23, 2019 at 3:40 am #

      Ah, yes. I love repetitive redundancies.

  11. Avatar
    Allison Bottke July 23, 2019 at 10:24 am #

    Plastic silverware gets me every time. 🙂

  12. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee July 23, 2019 at 12:26 pm #

    I am very fond of sturdy paper plates. I’ve had enough food slopped in my lap at church banquets to find those oxymoronic.

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