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Common Oxymorons Contradicting Words

April 25, 2019
By Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

Have you ever thought about some of the figures of speech you use or have used throughout life.

Sometimes as I am reading a magazine or another newspaper, I will pay attention to how many oxymorons or paradoxes someone uses in their writing.

Writers and poets have been using oxymorons for centuries to describe life's inherent conflicts and discrepancies. In speech, oxymorons can lend a sense of humor, irony, or sarcasm.

Ironically, the word oxymorons is in itself oxymoronic (it contradicts itself). It is derived from two ancient Greek words oxys, meaning "sharp" and moronos, meaning "dull" or "stupid."

Some of my favorite quotes are oxymoronic. A person with good English skills gets the underlying meaning, but someone trying to get a grasp on the English language would be so confused.

"Never have children, only grandchildren."

-- Gore Vidal

"A normal adolescent isn't a normal adolescent if he acts normal." -- Judith Viorst

"Everyone knows how to raise children, except those people who have them." -- P. J. O'Rourke

"There's no one more depressed than a happily married man." -- Mickey Rooney

"The young always have the same problem - how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another."

-- Quentin Crisp

We, as Americans never think about how we use the english language. Personally, I could never understand why I had to take english classes in school because I could already talk, so I never really paid attention and did just enough to get "C's" for grades.

Somehow, I find this thought process of me as an adolescent ironic. Now, my job is to write stories that people find interesting and understand. Somedays I really feel like I should have paid closer attention during those impressionable years.

as Americans, we don't even realize we use oxymorons in daily language. A person who is learning the English language can pick up on an oxymoron immediately and sometimes they have a hard time understanding what we are talking about.

Check out the following list of words and try to decide if a person with a limited understanding of the english language would be able to grasp what is meant sometimes when two or more words are combined that mean the opposite of each other:

alone together

awful good


clearly misunterstood

crash landing

deafening silence

deceptively honest

definitely maybe

deliberate speed

dull roar

eloquent silence

even odds

exact estimate

extinct life

festive tranquility

found missing

freezer burn

friendly takeover

icy hot

ill health

impossible solution

joyful sadness

jumbo shrimp

larger half

lead balloon

living dead

loud whisper

militant pacifist

minor miracle

negative growth

negative income

paper tablecloth

plastic silverware

paper towel

resident alien

soft rock

A person can look at the phrases above and with shaking heads find at least one or two that they have lemselves or heard from someone else. As a challenge, try not to use an oxymoron. It's harder than you think.



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