Literature Word of the Week – Oxymoron

26 Weeks to a Better Understanding of Literature

I’m aiming to improve my knowledge around all things English literature, and to help me do this I thought I’d start by learning a new literary word every week,  A-Z.  Although knowing me it might not be in any alphabetic order.  I might treat this more like a list on random shuffle.

So, I find a word that relates to literature and research the following on it:

  • How does it sound?
  • What does it mean?
  • Who invented it (if known)
  • When did the word come about?
  • Example to be used in a sentence (preferable in spoken form).
A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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Week 7:

Oxymoron

He has Van Gogh’s ear for music. — Billy Wilder

Strictly not a literature word, more of an English Language selection but as the word came up quite by chance in an unexpected conversation at work the other day I thought why not look at this word in a little more detail.

From two Greek words meaning ‘sharp’ ‘dull’, a rhetorical figure by which two incongruous or contradictory terms are united in an expression so as to give it a point

To give an expression a point.  You wouldn’t think an expression (which is already a point of view), would need any further point but there we have it.  It would seem sometimes, especially in literature, that to really give meaning to a piece of work you have to add something just that extra bit special (or complex perhaps?).

I was surprised to learn that a few oxymoron’s are used relatively in more every day conversations than I realised and a few I’d seen more than once in novels and on TV.  They include:

  • Holy war
  • Home office
  • Going nowhere
  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Private community
  • Group selfie
  • Make history
  • Self help

And the list of them goes on and on and on…

Is it that bad, I wondered, if an oxymoron is appropriately used?  Can an oxymoron ever be used appropriately?

Oxymorons are not necessarily mistakes or errors. They make effective titles and appealing phrases, and some are meant to be humorous.

Source: Oxymoron Info

Of course not.  In fact we would be lacking in a complete array of comedy if we didn’t have oxymoron’s in every day stories, films and poetry.

Just imagine where PG Wodehouse, one of my favourite authors,  would be without some oxymoron’s:

I always advise people never to give advice.
― P.G. Wodehouse

My goal next week is to try and get into conversation as many of the above examples as possible, starting with my all time favourite – that is awfully nice of you!

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2 responses to “Literature Word of the Week – Oxymoron

  1. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Utopia | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

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