Oxymoron – how to understand it
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Oxymoron – definition
Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two incongruous or apparently contradictory words are combined to make a special effect.
An oxymoron is a contracted paradox.
- He has a strong weakness for drink.
- I’ll try the sweet and sour duck.
- She is something of a cheerful pessimist
- Their affair is an open secret.
Oxymoron is used for emphasis or stylistic effect.
It’s often used in advertising.
NB! By the way, it’s pronounced ‘ox-ymoron’ — not ‘oxy-moron’.
The oxymoron is closely related to antithesis and paradox. Both of these are figures of speech.
An oxymoron is ‘a contracted paradox’. That is, the paradox is an apparently contradictory statement; whereas the contradiction in an oxymoron is reduced to just two antithetical terms.
It is the sort of playful and often witty effect used by those who wish to draw attention to their command of language.
The device is much-loved by poets, because it enables them to express complex ideas in a very compressed form:
Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired
The toiling pleasure sickens into pain
Self-assessment quiz follows …
© Roy Johnson 2003
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