Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. – Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman loved oxymorons – figures of speech that combine contradictory terms – and so do I. The word derives from the Greek oxys “sharp” + moros “foolish.” Oxymoron itself is an oxymoron. Those clever Greeks.
Literary gurus describe oxymorons as compact paradoxes. Paradox is from the Greek para "contrary to" + doxa "opinion." According to dictionary.com, a paradox is "a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth." Yes, I did just take a big sip of coffee. But enough English 101. Simply put, paradoxes are insightful and fun:
"I can resist anything, except temptation." – Oscar Wilde
“No one goes to that restaurant any more – it’s always too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
“You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap.” – Dolly Parton
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." – Mark Twain
“I am a deeply superficial person.” – Andy Warhol
“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” – Groucho Marx
“I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan
Some phrases that weren't intended as oxymorons are seen as such in the eyes of a satiric world: congressional action, Microsoft Works, airline food.
And for any parents who have hosted a sleepover for a daughter and her friends, there is this oxymoron: slumber party.
In our house, we call it a wakeover.