What is an oxymoron?
A dictionary definition: “A rhetorical figure in which an epigrammatic effect is created by the conjunction of incongruous or contradictory terms”
The conjunction of words which, at first view, seem to be contradictory or incongruous, but whose surprising juxtaposition expresses a truth or dramatic effect, such as, “cool fire”, “deafening silence”, “wise folly”, “sweet sorrow”, “bitter sweet” or “original copy” and so forth. An oxymoron is similar to a paradox, but more compact, usually consisting of just two successive words.
There is a class of expressions that are often labeled oxymorons (or more correctly, oxymora) but are not. Rather, the speaker retrofits the concept of the oxymoron onto the term, often intending humour 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”).
neutral point of view
Some humorists create jokes around such perceived oxymora. Some examples:
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 present, most 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.
coal mine safety
a definite maybe
diet ice cream
New York culture
synthetic natural gas
temporary tax increase