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Why We Love Oxymorons

Deconstructing the wit of the absurd


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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Vero May 10, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I've always liked the expression "I have my reservations but I'll eat here anyway."
John Walsh May 10, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Great one, Vero. Thanks for reading the post.

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