Oxymoron

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An oxymoron (plural oxymorons or oxymora) (from Greek ὀξύμωρον, "sharp dull") is a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. Oxymorons appear in a variety of contexts, including inadvertent errors such as extremely average and literary oxymorons crafted to reveal a paradox.

Contents

Types

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

Other oxymorons of this kind examples are;

Less often seen are noun-verb combinations of two words, such as the line

from Nathan Alterman's Summer Night.

Oxymorons are not always a pair of words; they can also be devised in the meaning of sentences or phrases. The rhyme below, in which nearly every line contains an oxymoron, serves as an example of various situational oxymorons:


Etymology

Oxymoron is derived from the 5th century Latin "oxymoron", which is derived from the Ancient Greek "ὀξύς" (oxus, sharp) + "μωρός" (mōros, dull).[1] The Greek "ὀξύμωρον" (oxumōron) is not found in the extant Greek sources, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[2]

Taxonomy

Richard Lederer assembled a taxonomy of oxymorons in an article in Word Ways in 1990,[3] running from single-word oxymorons such as "pianoforte" (literally, "soft-loud") through "doublespeak oxymora" (deliberately intended to confuse) and "opinion oxymora" (editorial opinions designed to provoke a laugh). In general, oxymorons can be divided into expressions that were deliberately crafted to be contradictory and those phrases that inadvertently or incidentally contain a contradiction, often as a result of a punning use of one or both words.

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