An oxymoron is a figure of speech combining terms that are usually contradictory of one another. Some examples are:
jumbo shrimp / colossal shrimp /extremely average /same difference / living dead / bad health / calculated risk / cruel to be kind / the sound of silence ~ deafening silence / open secret /almost pregnant / brutally handsome / blind eye / guest host / realistic fiction / unbiased opinion.
Some examples you will find are offered as oxymorons to make a point, such as: honest lawyer
What an Oxymoron Is
The original oxymoron is "sweet and sour" (the Greek elements are: 'oxy' = acid, sharp and 'moron' = sweet, soft) -- nowadays "bittersweet" is perhaps the most common example, describing something that gives us pleasure but also has elements of sadness, regret or disappointment. An oxymoron is therefore a phrase usually involving two terms that seem to be contradictory or paradoxical but are both true. It should be distinguished from "a contradiction in terms" which means that one term or the other is likely to be untrue, that one term logically excludes the other one (the classic joke is "military intelligence"), however people often use the term "oxymoron" for a "contradiction in terms".
Perhaps what is most paradoxical and a little ironic is that oxymorons are often used in the English language and they are usually perfectly well understood, even though they are contradictory. But, then again, the boundaries of language and the shifting landscape of experience never quite match up, so it's a useful method of making people think about what you are trying to describe.
The following sentences and phrases are examples of oxymorons. The oxymorons are underlined and there is a brief explanation of why the underlined is considered an oxymoron.
Here is a long paragraph with lots of them:
I can picture my friend 'Barking' Eddie, it's a pretty ugly sight. I see him half-naked, sipping non-alcoholic beer from his plastic glass. Then from time-to-time he nibbles on his cold hotdog, which is smothered in hot chili sauce. For pudding Eddie will be having freezer-burnt, white chocolate ice cream, with a plain fudge topping. Next week Eddie will be chaotically organizing a working holiday for Hell's Angels. This is a new tradition, as they will be spending a whole half-day on the top floor of his low-rise office. They are hoping to watch a live recording of a programme about turning green oranges into non-stick glue.
Observations in Literature
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."
(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
A huge nothing
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