#ENGCLASS: OXYMORON

Are you familiar with the word ‘oxymoron’, fellas? No, it has very little to do with the m-word except that they both came from the same Greek word mōros, which means ‘foolish’.

Oxymoron came from the Greek word oksús, which means ‘sharp’, ‘keen’, or ‘pointed’, and mōros which means ‘foolish’. So, it directly translates to ‘sharply (or smartly) foolish’.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an oxymoron (plural form ‘oxymorons’ or the less used ‘oxymora’) is a combination of contradictory words. Based on the literal meanings from the two Greek words, an oxymoron is autological or homological, which means the meaning of the word applies to itself, i.e.: an oxymoron is also an oxymoron.

Simply put, an oxymoron is a figure of speech (or ‘majas’ in Indonesian) made of two or more words that have opposite meanings.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Example:

  1. Bittersweet (‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ have opposite meanings).
    “Such a bittersweet feeling overwhelms me whenever I think about the good old days.”
  2. Living dead (‘living’ and ‘dead’ have opposite meanings).
    “I’m so tired of movies with zombies or the living dead.”
  3. Deafening silence (‘deafening’ means making someone deaf because of how loud the sound is, whilst ‘silence’ means a situation where there is no sound).
    “The silence that followed the brief speech was deafening.”
  4. Pretty awful (‘pretty’ and ‘awful’ are contradictory in meanings, but ‘pretty’ is used here as an intensifier, to strengthen the word ‘awful’).
    “The singer sounds pretty awful; I think he should never give up his day job.”
  5. Love-hate (‘love’ and ‘hate’ are contradictory).
    “I have a love-hate relationship with social media; can’t live with it, can’t live without it.”

It’s pretty easy, isn’t it? The purpose of using figures of speech like oxymorons is to make your language output (writing, speaking) more colourful. Can you mention other examples of oxymorons, fellas?

@Keystone_Eng: I like:
Act naturally!
A small crowd
It’s your only choice

@NituYumnam:
~ pretty ugly
~ social distancing
~ cleverly stupid

Compiled by @alicesaraswati for @EnglishTips4U on Thursday, 19 November 2020.

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