Reflections! What is an Oxymoron?
What is an Oxymoron?
By William L. Bulla
What is an "oxymoron"? Oxymoron's are used by us every day in our conversations and we really don't think about it. They have been used so much in our language that many of them have become cliches.
The word, "oxymoron" is said to be originated from Greek words, oxy, meaning 'sharp, pointed' and moron, moros that meant 'dull or foolish'. Oxymoron's are phrases or words that seem to contradict themselves. It's a figure of speech in which opposite or contradictory ideas or terms are combined (Ex.: thunderous silence, sweet sorrow). Although a true oxymoron is "something that is surprisingly true, a paradox", modern usage has brought a common misunderstanding that oxymoron is nearly synonymous with contradiction.
I find myself calling them "oxymoron's" as the plural form of oxymoron, even though I had read that the proper correct plural form of singular oxymoron is "oxymora". But, upon searching the web, I found several dictionaries giving both forms as the plural. I guess it is like many other words we Americans have changed in spelling or pronunciation over the years.
Simply put, an oxymoron is the combination of words, which, at first, seem to be contradictory or incongruous, but whose surprising juxtaposition expresses a truth of dramatic effect. Many are simple to understand and interpret their hidden meaning. Over the past couple of weeks, I have paid particular interest to the conversations around me as I go shopping, to meetings, or in restaurants. I have heard numerous paradoxical statements that fall into the "oxymoron" definition.
Here are some of them: found missing, few more, real phony, adult children, jumbo shrimp, plastic glasses, exact estimate, alone in a crowd, deafening silence, working vacation, serious joke, absolutely unsure, pretty ugly, simply
Difficult, and safe risks.
Just before election day, I heard one politician say he had "an *original copy* of a document that proved there was *negative growth* in new jobs." I'm not sure whether these are oxymoron's or common political talk.
And if you are in a bar, be careful. Too many beers could cause you to drive your car in an *irregular pattern* which could result in a police officer thinking you were *legally drunk*.
In a restaurant, recently, I overheard one young man telling a *small crowd* of friends about his *advanced basic* training in the Army. Another person spoke about his new job as a *student teacher*, and a woman in *tight slacks* was ordering diet food in the form of a *vegetarian meatball*.
An oxymoron is often used when a person describes something or some one. For example, calling one type of dog as a *bird dog*, An animal cannot be both a bird, and a dog, as the word might suggest. What is meant is "a dog that effectively hunts birds." This is the *same difference* as describing a garbage dump as a *sanitary landfill*.
Often, unknown to many of us, we add dramatic imagery to our conversations daily by the use of oxymoronic expressions in our vocabulary. So, *act naturally* and it is *almost certain* that you will be *almost perfect* in what you say.
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.