Some Fascinating Examples of Oxymoron Which We Use Regularly

Oxymoron (pl. oxymora) is a type of figure of speech, which brings two contradictory terms together in one sentence. This may include an adjective-noun combination, or a noun-verb combination; the former being more commonly used. The true meaning of this word is evident in its origin — the word is derived from two Ancient Greek words ‘oxus’, meaning sharp, and ‘moros’, meaning foolish.

Pretty ugly, passive aggression, open secret … the list of oxymora that we use in our conversation, either unconsciously or deliberately, is pretty lengthy. In some cases, this figure of speech is a result of some error in conversation; while at times, oxymora are used as puns in speech or as paradoxes to highlight a contradiction. The following are the varied types of oxymora that are found in the English language.



◉ Inadvertent oxymora: Original copy, extremely average, etc.

◉ Oxymora as puns: Open secret, deliberate mistake, etc.

◉ Oxymora as paradoxes: Serious joke, deafening silence, etc.



Based on the relationship between the two words, oxymora can also be classified into



◉ Direct oxymora — wherein the two words are antonyms, like orderly confusion, or inside out.

◉ Indirect oxymora — wherein the terms are not antonyms, but still contradict each other, like sure guess, or roaring silence.



Regardless of why we do it, or how it happens, there is no questioning the fact that oxymora add humor to even the most serious and/or dull conversations.

Examples


Oxymoron Examples

Accurate estimate Act naturally
All alone Appear invisible
Awfully nice Bad luck
Big baby Born dead
Brief speech Clearly confused
Climb down Common difference
Confirmed rumor Constant change
Controlled chaos Current history
Deliberate mistake Exact estimate
Exact opposite Expressive silence
Falsely true Farewell reception
Found missing Fully empty
Genuine imitation Genuinely fake
Growing small Known secret
Liquid gas Little giant
Mandatory option Mercy killing
Modern history Negative growth
Objective opinion Original copy
Plastic glasses Practical joke
Random pattern Recorded live
Science fiction Small crowd
Speed limit Suicide victim
Terribly good Timeless moment
True story Typically unusual
Unsung hero Virtual reality

Oxymoron Quotes

Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history. – George Bernard Shaw

I can resist anything, except temptation. – Oscar Wilde

Simplicity is not a simple thing. – Charles Chaplin

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use. – Wendell Johnson

The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep. – W.C. Fields

Always be sincere, even when you don’t mean it. – Irene Peter

If I could drop dead right now, I’d be the happiest man alive. – Samuel Goldwyn

I distinctly remember forgetting that. – Clara Barton

The building was pretty ugly and a little big for its surroundings. – Steinbeck

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. – Mark Twain

To lead the people, walk behind them. – Lao-Tzu

We sleep in separate rooms, we have dinner apart, we take separate vacations. We’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together. – Rodney Dangerfield

Examples in Literature


Oxymora In Literature

In literature, oxymora are often used to highlight a paradox. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for instance, has some of the best examples highlighting the same.

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow

That I shall say good night till it be morrow

Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical!

Dove feathered raven! Wolvish-ravening lamb!

Despised substance of divinest show!

A damned saint, an honorable villain!

Here is much to do with hate, but more with love.

Why then, O bawling love! O bawling hate!

O anything! of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! serious vanity!

Mis-shapen chaos and well seeming forms.

Similarly, there are many authors who have successfully used this literary device to bring together two seemingly contradictory terms.

I find no peace, and all my war is done

I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice,

I flee above the wind, yet can I not arise;

And nought I have and all the world I season.

Translation of Petrarch’s Rima, Sonnet 134 by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Povert is hateful good, and, as I gesse,

A ful greet bringer out of bisiness;

English poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer

His honour rooted in dishonour stood,

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true

Lancelot and Elaine, Idylls of the King, by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Other prominent examples of oxymora in literature include scalding coolness in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway, melancholy merriment in ‘Don Juan’ by Lord Byron, comfortable misery in ‘One Door Away From Heaven’ by Dean Koontz, etc. 

Oxymora as a figure of speech is a very popular tool in the English language, and the several examples that we find in the varied forms, mediums, and types of texts is proof enough of the same. What is, however, even more encouraging (and interesting) is that the use of oxymora is not restricted to seemingly heavy literature alone, but has in fact, become a part of daily usage — in conversation and otherwise. And that is where it truly triumphs.

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