HOW TO SPEAK AMERICANO III Dept.
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
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
The most common form of oxymoron involves an adjectivenoun
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."
"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."
"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").
by reason of insanity
fire water (to pump out of a hose or waterpistol)
Sophomore (Wise Fool)
Definitely Maybe (album title)
Some humorists create jokes around such
perceived oxymora; some examples:
MORE on MORONs
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
Genuine imitation (& genuine replica, etc.)
Guest host (and Permanent guest host, a rare "triple"
Loud silence (& Deafening silence etc.)
Rolling stop (driving)
Sophomore (latin for "wise foolish")
Synthetic natural gas
Which sound like a contradiction, often because of multiple
possible meanings of one of the words.
Agree to disagree
Baby grand (piano)
Drawing a blank
New and improved
Poor little rich girl
Thinking out loud
Totally partial (to something)
Twelve-ounce pound cake
With 100% (e.g. "made with 100% olive oil")
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.
Alberta environment minister
Democratic people's republic
Diet ice cream
New York culture
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'.