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Dumb Oxymorons?
Edited by Don Jibaro Barbablanca
Along with the Spanish, I studied proper English and it's literature in the schools of Puerto Rico from 1952 to 1964. My teachers made shure that the phonetics and dictions were executed flawlessly.

However when I came to USA in 1973, I found that English was spoken much different to the stuff I had learned. They had stuff called "SLANG that could be used to fit on any lirterary exchange. But that's another story. Behold! I now bring you the American Oximoron, a set of words dedicated to and spoken by the idiots that roam the land...

An oxymoron (plural "oxymora")
(noun - not to be confused with Oxymoron (band).) is a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms (e.g. "anarchy rules"). Oxymoron is a Greek term derived from the adjectives oxys ("sharp, keen") and moros ("blunt, dull"). Oxymora are a proper subset of the expressions called contradiction in terms. What distinguishes oxymora from other paradoxes and contradictions is that they are used intentionally, for rhetorical effect, and the contradiction is only apparent, as the combination of terms provides a novel expression of some concept.

The most common form of oxymoron involves an adjective–noun combination. For example, the following line from Tennyson's Idylls of the King contains two oxymora:

"And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true"

Deliberate use of oxymoron

—  "O miserable abundance, O beggarly riches!" John Donne, Devotions on Emergent Occasions
—  "I do here make humbly bold to present them with a short account of themselves... " Jonathan Swift
—  "The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head..." Alexander Pope
—  "He was now sufficiently composed to order a funeral of modest magnificence..." Samuel Johnson
—  "O anything of nothing first create! / O heavy lightness, serious vanity! / Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms! / Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!" William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene 1
—  "It was the best of times, It was the worst of times." Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
—  "You'd be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap." Dolly Parton
—  "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught." Winston Churchill
—  "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Mark Twain
—  "I am a deeply superficial person." Andy Warhol
—  "The only new thing in this world, is the history you did not know." Harry Truman
—  "A joke is a very serious thing." Winston Churchill
—  "Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad." Victor Hugo
—  "The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep." W.C. Fields
—  "To lead the people, walk behind them." Lao-Tzu
—  "I miss the comfort in being sad." Kurt Cobain "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle"

It's just hard to swallow but swallowable...


Examples of perceived oxymoron
There is a class of expressions that are often labeled oxymora but are actually not. Rather, the speaker retrofits the concept of the oxymoron onto the term, often intending humor from the resulting observation. Usually such perceived oxymora depend on substitution of an alternate meaning for the noun in the phrase (e.g. "old news", where the word "news" is interpreted as "new" rather than "information"). Further examples:

—  systematic chaos
—  extensive briefings
—  random order
—  detailed summary
—  jumbo shrimp
—  open secret
—  civil war
—  holy war
—  Democratic Leadership
—  phantom samaritan
—  sharp curves
—  pretty ugly
—  by reason of insanity
—  foreign nationals
—  head butt
—  tight slacks
—  act naturally
—  original copies
—  wholesome
—  student teacher
—  non-alcoholic beer
—  new classic
—  unhappily married
—  clearly misunderstood
— straight angle
—  small crowd
—  vaguely aware
—  fire water (to pump out of a hose or waterpistol)
—  found missing
—  peacekeeper missile
—  Sophomore (Wise Fool)
—  Definitely Maybe (album title)

Some humorists create jokes around such perceived oxymora; some examples:
—  military intelligence
—  corporate ethics
—  Vanderbilt Football
—  Microsoft Works
—  Australian culture
—  government initiative
—  corporate responsibility
—  athletic scholarship
—  Microsoft Works

A well known oxymoron
poem includes this verse:

"One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other..."

Indeed, in recent usage... it has become fashionable to refer to any contradiction at all as an "oxymoron", especially in this facetious sense. For example, if someone refers to "an honest politician", someone else might respond, "Now there's an oxymoron!" This used to be referred to as a "contradiction in terms". The fashion may have arisen because "oxymoron" sounded more exotic or learned than "contradiction", but its widespread use in this sense is based on a misunderstanding of the original, literary meaning of "oxymoron" which implies an artful use of a contradiction for effect. At the moment, current dictionaries appear to mention only the original sense of "oxymoron", but it is possible that in future the distinction will be blurred, and the original meaning of "oxymoron" will be lost.

Richard Lederer's extensive list of oxymora...

—  Almost exactly
—  Authentic reproduction
—  Bitter sweet
—  Center around
—  Common difference
—  Definite maybe
—  Detailed summary
—  Dry lake
—  Elevated subway
—  Exact estimate
—  Found missing
—  Forever's end
—  Forward lateral
—  Genuine imitation (& genuine replica, etc.)
—  Good grief
—  Guest host (and Permanent guest host, a rare "triple" oxymoron)
—  Hot snow
—  Liquid gas
—  Local long-distance
—  Loud silence (& Deafening silence etc.)
—  Mandatory options
—  Modest magnificence
—  Mournful optimist
—  One choice
—  Only choice
—  Open secret
—  Original copy
—  Rolling stop (driving)
—  Scatter-hoarder
—  Sophomore (latin for "wise foolish")
—  Sweet sorrow
—  Synthetic natural gas
—  True lies
—  Virtual reality
—  Wireless cable
—  Working vacation


Perceived oxymora
Which sound like a contradiction, often because of multiple possible meanings of one of the words.

—  Active retirement
—  Adult children
—  Assistant supervisor
—  Advanced BASIC
—  Agree to disagree
—  Alone together
—  Awfully good
—  Baby grand (piano)
—  Barely dressed
—  Burning cold
—  Clearly misunderstood
—  Cold sweat
—  Constant change
—  Drawing a blank
—  Fairly dark
—  Fine mess
—  Freezer burn
—  Fresh Frozen
—  Full-time hobby
—  Growing smaller
—  Hopelessly optimistic
—  Idiot savant
—  Infinite number
—  Jumbo shrimp
—  Live recording
—  Living dead
—  New and improved
—  New routine
—  New tradition
—  Non-dairy creamer
—  Old news
—  Passive aggressive
—  Peace force
—  Poor little rich girl
—  Pretty ugly
—  Radio show
—  Random order
—  Same difference
—  Self-help
—  Seriously funny
—  Sinfully good
—  Small crowd
—  Small fortune
—  Standard deviation
—  Standard options
—  Taped live
—  Terribly good
—  Thinking out loud
—  Totally partial (to something)
—  Twelve-ounce pound cake
—  Unbelievably real
—  Unsalted saltine
—  Wickedly good
—  With 100% (e.g. "made with 100% olive oil")
—  Young adult

Joke oxymora
These are phrases where a comic effect or opinion point is made by pretending that they are oxymora. For example, the joke is that by stating that "Microsoft Works" is an oxymoron you imply that Microsoft can't make a piece of software that works. An almost infinite number1 of these can be constructed. Whether these phrases are actually oxymora depends on the reader's point of view; someone who believes that Microsoft does work would not think that "Microsoft Works" is an oxymoron. Joke oxymora almost always involve stereotypes. For example, saying that "honest lawyer" is an oxymoron works on the stereotype that lawyers are liars. This too, is subject to a person's point of view.

—  Airline food
—  Alberta environment minister
—  Anarcho-capitalism
—  Anarcho-communism
—  Australian culture
—  Business ethics
—  Californian culture
—  Canadian military
—  Computer jock
—  Corporate ethics
—  Democratic people's republic
—  Diet ice cream
—  Educational television
—  Extinct life
—  Fair politician
—  Fast food
—  Good lawyer
—  Government efficiency
—  Government initiative
—  Government organization
—  Government worker
—  Happy marriage
—  Harmless sin
—  Healthy tan
—  Holy war
—  Intelligent footballer
—  Libertarian socialism
—  Microsoft Works
—  Military intelligence
—  New York culture
—  Progressive Conservative
—  Pro-life feminism
—  Rap music
—  Reality television
—  Religious tolerance
—  Sanitary landfill
—  Soft rock
—  Sports personality



You and I know that every one passionately strives to be "cool, avant-garde, and, of course, politically correct." You can hardly say anything to anyone anymore, because they might get "offended" if a tiny speck of boo-boo falls in their politically correct 'botella de lechita'... or better said, "lacteous nourishment container." How about "homeless" becoming —"outdoor urban dwellers"? Hearest thou an Amén?

Nowadays, children hit and disrespect their parents and you can't spank 'em anymore, cuz they lock you up! Prisoners now sue their victims... and as my Tio Genaro used to say "Birds shoot back at the shotguns." Gasp!! I know no' mo'.

This is the Bottom Line

“Live in such a way that no one blames the rest of us 
nor finds fault with our work.” —(2 Corinthians 6:3)

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