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I added the "Roman Catholic Church," because literally it is a contradiction in term, albeit obscure and largely out of use. Other "Catholic" groups are equally valid, like the Liberal Catholic Church and Independent Catholic Churches are. But these are much less well known, and either way, anything that restricts a catholic enitity is denying just that.

I removed "jumbo shrimp" and the comments someone added because this comes down to a US vs British usage dispute. A scan of american dictionaries indicates that they deem "Shrimp" meaning "small" to be informal. A scan of British disctionaries indicates that "shrimp" meaning small is the primary usage, and the usage as a crustacean is a secondary one. Hence it IS an oxymoron to half the English speaking world, and is perfectly sensible to the other half. Rather than get into a protracted and longwinded explanation of trans-atlantic/pacific English issues, it was easier to simply remove it, as losing it doesn't hurt the article at all.

well, *I* think of 'jumbo shrimp' as faintly humorous, and I'm an American. --MichaelTinkler

(I'm American). Whenever someone tells me they're a student teacher, I ask them if they like jumbo shrimp or if they used to work for military intelligence. --justfred

Are you sure this article isn't just a long stub? --The Epopt, defender of large crustaceans

If you don't like the article, rewrite your own damn version, that's what the 'pedia is for. Quit whining about it here. - MMGB

Er, I think you'll find a long stub is an oxymoronic joke, Manning... sjc

Speaking of religious oxymorons, good examples are 'christian science', and 'bible historian'

While talking about church stuff, what about "homosexual marriage"? Isn't that an oxymoron, too? -- (talk) 23:11, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

Plural form[edit]

Yeah, possibly, but I get so steamed when people write "this article is no good" comments in Talk sections, I'd rather they either improve it, give suggestions for improving it or shut the hell up. And I'm having a bad-sense-of-humour day, so maybe I'm being a weeny bit too terse. And another things, I really hate it when people put in opinions as facts. The plural of "oxymoron" is "oxymora". I checked 6 different dictionaries. Just because something thinks it should be "oxymorons" doesn't make it so. (later - OK, 1 dictionary gives "oxymorons" as an alternate.. The others (OED. Websters etc) only give oxymora)- MMGB

Where in the OED did you find oxymora? Has it been added in the new electronic edition? It's not in the old (20th century) printed edition at all. Dandrake 08:10, Jul 7, 2004 (UTC)
Actually, I find American Heritage to be usually the best dictionary made for matters of usage, second only to OED. "Webster's" doesn't specify any particular dictionary because it isn't a trademark, but the one's made by Merriam-Webster company tend to be wimpily descriptivist. As you point out, though, even AH prefers the Latin plural. --LDC (For the record, I think it's actually the Greek plural, since Latin words don't do that.)

The plural which people used in the article is oxymorons, which is why I tidied it up to reflect reality. I agree that the plural of oxymorons is oxymora. But 99 times out of a hundred if you ever see the plural written down it will be written oxymorons by people otherwise intelligent enough to get their heads around the concept. sjc

Thank you, sjc, for getting my joke. Perhaps I need to use a less subtle sledgehammer.... And, Manning, please get your sense of humor repaired. I'm by no means the most prolific encyclopedist here, but I have written some fairly hefty articles and contributed significantly to others. I think I've earned the right to comment, even when I fail to be humorous. --The Epopt

Epopt - unconditional apology offered. Frankly, there are days when you just shouldn't log on - yesterday was one of them. Regards - MMGB

  • Days when you shouldn't log on to Wikipedia? Now that's and oxymoron. (this was added later, so I put it in as a bullet) HereToHelp

Wow! You are obviously a gentleman as well as a scholar, Manning -- accepted without reservation. Don't give up on proper plurals, though! (I would humorously suggest "oxymoroni" if I weren't afraid that sooner or later a humor-impared Mormon would see it and take offence. So I won't.) --The Epopt

"Oxymorons" isn't incorrect, according to both Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary. I'm trying to think of any oxymoronic way of saying "less preferred" instead of "incorrectly."

According to [1]:
"When you have more than one oxymoron, what do you call them? The typical answer, of course, is oxymorons. But, technically, that would be wrong. The correct plural form of the word is oxymora. Over the years, however, so many people have been saying oxymorons that--even though technically incorrect--the term is so widespread that it's now considered an acceptable usage by most language scholars. If you want to be precise, oxymora is the word to use." -Wins oddf 03:25, Dec 21, 2004 (UTC)

Fowler, writing 75 years ago and in a much more pedantic time, gives oxymorons as the first plural and oxymora as the second. In his article on the ending -ON, he notes that for some words with that ending, phenomenon, criterion, oxymoron, and several obscure terms, "some may and often do" form the plural in -a, while many other words similarly formed, skeleton, electron, lexicon are never pluralized thus. It seems a coin toss to me, but actually, until I looked it up, I had never heard the -a plural and oxymora reads pretty pedantic to me. Ortolan88

You're not the only one. A pedant so well educated that he doesn't need to look in the OED recently zapped "oxymorons" with the comment that that is not a word. Actually, it's the only plural for oxymoron that I found in the OED, appearing in a citation fron 1677. Let me emphasize that "oxymora" has no later citation, nor any at all. "Teeth" and "aquaria" appear explicitly as plurals in OED entries because they are not formed by regular English rules; "oxymora" does not. Of course, I'd never say that oxymora isn't a word, because that's a generally dopey thing to say; but in the 20th century it was very far from being the recognized plural.

Actually, from the nearly All-American cast of dictionary citations above, I wonder if "oxymora" is another bit of American—what shall we call it? defensive pedantry? overcompensating pedantry?—rather like N. Webster's notion that "kilometer" should be stressed on the antepenultimate syllable, or the antepenult. (My country: May she always be right, but—when she isn't we'll set her straight.)Dandrake 08:10, Jul 7, 2004 (UTC)

I really think the article should record that the plural oxymorons is in use as well as oxymora. It's not a neologism and it doesn't undermine any other word. It's been in long use by people who use words and understand them, and is in widespread use. It's normal now even formally to allow standard English plurals as well as classical plurals with words of classical origin, where it comes more easily to the user. I'm not going to alter it though because I didn't write the article and I can see there's been a lot of discussion. Bypasser Dec 2005.

A quick google of the two candidates indicates that oxymorons outnumber oxymora by more than 10 to 1. In my opinion the best use of rare variants is to make a particular effect, such as humour or irony. Perhaps those who insist that the use of 'oxymorons' is somehow technically incorrect in the english language are simply mora. Petecarney 22:27, 5 April 2007 (UTC)

language mutation[edit]

It looks like the forces of language mutation are continuing their inexorable progress. When I added a link here from my new article, Organic salt (in which I contribute to this mutation), I reviewed Merriam-Webster Online and American Heritage (2000, via and found that neither gave a clear preference for the original meaning of intentional absurdity. MWO doesn't even suggest it. American Heritage (also my favorite printed dictionary) calls it "a rhetorical figure", but a recursive lookup of rhetorical and rhetoric indicates a preference for rhetoric as a general style of speech and writing, with the "bombastic", "pretentious", "vacuous", "insincere", etc., meanings being pushed to second or third place. It might have helped to have a Greek word or neologism that provided the more general meaning, rather than relying on the cumbersome, less stylish "contradiction in terms". -- Jeff Q 08:31, 23 May 2004 (UTC)

Is Rush Limbaugh an oxy-moron? (anon)

what's the opposite of an oxymoron?[edit]

in other words, something that has a qualifier that is already implied by the "something". Ok i don't know how to explain this. i guess "redundancy" or "pleonasm" is the closest idea. - Omegatron 15:17, July 17, 2005 (UTC)

My guess: Tautology. (anon)

Do you mean something like "wise scholar", because a scholar is wise by nature? I get what you mean...but I have no idea what the term is. HereToHelp 20:21, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Tautology is correct.--Holland Nomen Nescio 08:31, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

  • 'Oxy-' as in oxygen, & 'moron' = "fool"; it means the sort of man who I would not trust with an oxy-gas torch? :-) Anthony Appleyard (talk) 10:58, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
  • Or the sort of scrapyard man with about enough intelligence to cut things up with an oxy-gas torch, and not much more? :-) Anthony Appleyard (talk) 05:13, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

The poem is misplaced[edit]

It is right after the examples of alternate usage and before comment on alternate usage, while it is an example of regular usage. I'm gonna move it if that is alright with everyone. Blueaster 05:07, 15 August 2005 (UTC)

Name Orgins[edit]

I always thought that the term arose because an ox was smart, and never a moron. So a moronic ox was an oxymoron. Maybe I'm wrong and this is a coincidence, maybe they're both right, or maybe something else. But if there's any truth to what I'm saying, shouldn't it be put in the article? HereToHelp 20:18, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

omg this is kewl

Facts altered[edit]

Certain facts in this article seem to have been altered. Can someone please confirm that the altered versions are correct. If not, please revert the changes.
gorgan_almighty 14:47, 8 December 2005 (UTC)


The concept "oxymoron" and the example from Romeo and Julia is explicitly referenced in the movie "Renaissance Man" featuring Danny DeVito ( [2] ) - martix


Does this...

Oxymora can be used as humor, political statements, sarcasm, irony, or ridicule. Since "perception is in the eye of the beholder," oxymora are expressed from the point of view of the ones using and contributing them, and those on the "other side of the fence" may find them objectionable, which may even be the whole point.

...give anyone free-license to use this page to ridicule others and push propaganda with oxymora? I have added my own here as a response to what an anti-chiropractic user has put here. Is that all right? Levine2112 01:00, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Spiteful and spam additions[edit]

To deliberately edit an article for the sake of provoking another editor is very dubious behavior. When those edits don't really add anything useful, but are purely added as political statements, then its called spamming and vandalism of the article. Those actions were purely POV political statements (obviously oxymora can be POV, and are thus permissable). If you had thought them out and chosen them more carefully, you might at another time added some of them as useful additions.
Unlike your purely spiteful and spam additions (referenced below), I found all of mine from actual usage. I have collected many of them over a long time, and I also searched for and found some of them on websites and discussion groups. Since I frequent anti-quackery, scientific, and medical groups and lists, those are the types one finds there. The majority scientific (and thus skeptical) viewpoints regarding chiropractic, sCAM (so-Called "Alternative" Medicine), and quackery are revealed in the types of oxymora they use. As such they are perfect examples of what that "side of the fence" thinks about those on the "other side."
Therefore my additions were not purely political statements, but were meant as contributions of examples of that type of oxymora. I also added other - totally unrelated - types.
Here are your purely spiteful and spam additions: first ones, second set.
Here is your motivation, and thus admission of guilt: "two can play at that game, Fyslee", found here.
Here are more of your additions.
I find your choices of spam additions to be quite insightful into your thinking processes:
  • credible quackwatch -- You don't think Quackwatch is credible, but have not provided evidence for your case. Only the fringe (chiropractic and quacks) share your opinion.
  • fair chiropractic skepticism -- You don't think chiropractic deserves any skepticism, in spite of its position as flagship of the sCAM fleet, where outright quackery is the norm, and, as you demonstrate, skepticism and critical thinking are unwelcome.
  • fair skeptic -- You don't think skeptics can be fair, and still be skeptical.
  • great dane -- I don't know what you have against Danes. I'm an American living in Denmark, but actually come from Loma Linda, which isn't far from where you live, which is a nice area. You're lucky!
  • honest chiropractic skeptic -- You don't believe that skeptics of chiropractic can be honest when criticizing and exposing the quackery within the profession. Plenty of chiropractors would vigorously disagree with you, including a chiropractic professor and the profession's foremost historian, Joseph C. Keating, Jr, PhD [3] He sums up the problems quite well in a Letter to the Editor from 1991, entitled "Quackery in Chiropractic:", as well as here, where he uses stronger denunciations of chiropractic than I usually indulge in.
  • honest quackbuster -- So exposing quackery isn't an honest enterprise? What about quackery do you consider honest? Why do you continually defend it? You can't have it both ways! (It would appear that you have inspired another oxymoron - honest quack ! Aren't you proud of yourself?!?
  • honest quackwatch -- You don't think Quackwatch is honest, but have not provided evidence for your case. Only the fringe (chiropractic and quacks) share your opinion.
  • medical ethics -- While certainly some practitioners in the medical system can be unethical, and thus guilty of the quackery that you seem to love, such things are the exception, unlike the norm in alternative medicine, where there are no ethical standards, no quality research, no dropping of disproven and dangerous methods, no controls, no sanctions, no reporting of side effects, no disapproval of unethical advertising, etc.
  • rational skepticism -- So now skepticism is irrational? You're really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, since skepticism is more or less defined by its use of critical thinking, examination of claims, not believing exceptional claims without good evidence, etc. Now just who is being irrational here? I think the answer is self-evident.
If you have any credibility left at all, you'll go back and remove most of those spam additions. -- Fyslee 09:49, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
After you remove yours which are guilty of everything you have so meticulously listed above. If you'd just take a moment to step back (take a deep breath) and see the hypocrisy of everything you've written above. When you've done that, you may remove all of my additions while you remove yours. Thank you. Levine2112 17:30, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Let's try and be civil. Maybe Levine2112 can explain why the above mentioned examples are correct and should be included. Personally, I think they are ludicrous, but I am always willing to listen to valid arguments. Please, state your case.

Here's my case. I don't believe that my entries are any more ludicrous than the one's that Fyslee has added which include:
chiropractic ethics
chiropractic medicine
chiropractic profession
scientific chiropractic
scientific vertebral subluxation
Basically these were added to promote his anti-chiropractic agenda and to provoke pro-chiropractic users as myself (Fyslee is the webmaster/moderator of several anti-chiropratic sites and has consistently added attacks to the chiropractic article - not that this is wrong, I'm just making you aware of his agenda). But as his addition to this article states: Oxymora can be used as humor, political statements, sarcasm, irony, or ridicule. Since "perception is in the eye of the beholder," oxymora are expressed from the point of view of the ones using and contributing them, and those on the "other side of the fence" may find them objectionable, which may even be the whole point.
The oxymora that I have presented here are purely political statements. They are also humorous and ironic in the eye of this beholder (me). Clearly, Fyslee finds them objectionable as he is on the other side of the fence. But know that I find his additions equally objectionable. However, if the rules of this article are going to apply to his versions of oxymora, then they must apply to mine.
That being said, I would be more than satisfied to have my additions deleted if Fyslee agrees to have his removed. I offer this in the interest of civility. I am not trying to censor anyone's opinions. I am not criticizing anyone's edits or ideas of what constitutes a legitimate oxymoron. I am only trying to keep this fair. If someone is going to use this page as a platform for no other reason than to insult a belief that I hold dear, then (if Wikipedia is truly democratic) I should be able to do the same in response. Anything else would be hypocrisy. Right? But as I said, I would be more than willing to have both of our entries stricken from this article in the interest of maintaining civility. Levine2112 09:38, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
My response to Levine2112's additions focused solely on his motivation for doing so, not whether our additions were ludicrous in each other's eyes or not. Of course they were! No objection there, and therefore they are - in principle - allowable. I only objected to his quickly trumped up additions, because they were added by his own admission as "purely political statements" to spite me.
They weren't even well thought out:
"If you had thought them out and chosen them more carefully, you might at another time added some of them as useful additions."
Mine, by contrast, were from other sources collected over a long period of time and in use by groups of people (mostly scientists, doctors, consumer protection advocates, and even chiropractors). They represent those viewpoints, and are not originated by myself. Some of the strongest chiropractic ones originated from chiropractors themselves. They do have humor and self-irony, unlike some of their followers....;-)
I'm willing to remove the following more rarely used ones (most of my contributions had nothing to do with chiropractic):
  • chiropractic ethics -- Even though the chiropractic profession is notorious for violations of medical and legal ethics on many levels.
  • chiropractic medicine -- Even though most chiropractors do all they can to distance themselves from the term "medicine" and the medical profession.
  • chiropractic profession -- Even though BJ Palmer ran it like a business. (quotes easily provided.)
  • scientific chiropractic -- In spite of a long history of anti-scientific attitudes and statements by chiropractic leaders, up until this day.
While these deletions will leave the list poorer, and even contribute to a whitewashing of chiropractic, I hope that is satisfactory.
I trust that Levine2112 will reciprocate. -- Fyslee 21:58, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
I reciprocated. What was your motivation in adding the ones that you added? They were not very good example of oxymora as they all need explaining to understand them. And even then, they still don't make much sense. I believe that you added them to push your anti-chiropractic agenda; not to provide valuable examples of oxymora. They weren't all that clever, which I think is a quality of a good example of oxymora. There are still others that you left behind that I believe should also be expunged including "evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine". That's way to long to be a good example of oxymora. It's not all that clever, and I don't think the average person would get your point. "Military Intelligence" - now that's clever. "Jumbo Shrimp" - that's funny - everyone understands that. Those are good examples. "Objectively measuring quackery"? What the heck is that? "Homeopathic active ingredients"? Huh? "Microsoft Works" - hilarious! "Civil War" - perfect! For the the sake of oxymora researchers who are coming to Wikipedia to learn about oxymora, I would think that this article should present them with the best examples of the clearest cases of oxymora. Levine2112 22:58, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
Can I assume a compromise has been reached? Or do I speak too soon?--Holland Nomen Nescio 12:41, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Not necessarily. Just tired of getting nowhere in these discussions. If you check out the ones at Talk:Chiropractic, you'll see what I mean. -- Fyslee 13:12, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Well, in the interest of compromise I have previously removed all of my edits that had to do with quackery and quackbusting. Though Fyslee has removed some of his anti-chiropractic, pro-quackbuster oxymora, he's left several behind (scientific vertebral subluxation, evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, homeopathic active ingredients, objectively measuring quackery). I believe he's even gone back and added one since we reached this supposed accord. The thing is, his additions don't necessarily offend me as a chiropractic advocate; rather, they offend me as a writer. They are poor examples of oxymora. Someone coming here for good examples of oxymora shouldn't be presented with "objectively measuring quackery" or "evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine". At the same time, I believe Fyslee was also responsible for adding "placebo effect". That's great! That's clever! That's a good solid example of an oxymorn. Everyone has heard that term used and might never have considered its oxymoronic quality. I have no problem with that one. I think the article is made stronger due with its inclusion here. But the other ones that he added were clearly soapboxing for his anti-chiropractic, anti-alternative medicne agenda. They are poor examples of oxymora and the article is made weaker by their presence.
Fyslee claims that he's "just tired of getting nowhere in these discussions". Well, when you are unwilling to compromise (or even agree to a compromise and then break it), I guess that would be considered getting nowhere. My question for him is: What would he consider getting somewhere in these discussions? I think the answer would be for him to get his way all the time. Levine2112 18:21, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
You guys absolutely have to keep your chiropractic debate off of this page. Don't disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point. TomTheHand 18:42, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. Levine2112 18:48, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Fine with me. -- Fyslee 20:12, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Poor examples[edit]

I removed some examples of oxymorons that I considered poor, and Fyslee characterized my changes in the edit comment as "vandalism", and left the following message on my Talk page:

Your wrote [in the edit summary]:
An oxymoron must be *internally* contradictory; removing tendentious examples
Maybe that's one definition, but by no means the only one. Besides - to some people - those examples you removed may well have been *internally* contradictory, but just not to you. Just because you didn't understand them in the *intended* way simply means you're not *in the loop* with their way of thinking. Oxymoron are definitely POV, and therefore are allowed, including those that don't coincide with your POV.
Please respect other's views and contributions to the same degree you expect others to respect yours. If you really feel an example is really that terribly "unoxymoronic," at least ask the contributor what it means. You might be surprised to learn that it's a common oxymoron within a large community of people, or in another culture than your own. -- Fyslee 19:44, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Fyslee, I certainly respect a variety of POVs; indeed, I agree with you that North Korea is not democratic, that Microsoft products often don't work very well, that "complementary and alternative medicine" is rarely evidence-based, etc. However, I do believe that "oxymoron" has a specific meaning, which does not apply in the deleted examples.

To quote the OED: "1. A figure of speech in which a pair of opposed or markedly contradictory terms are placed in conjunction for emphasis. 2. a contradiction in terms." That is, the terms themselves need to be contradictory. Simply describing something incorrectly does not constitute an oxymoron. For example, the various "people's democratic republics" are not considered "people's", "democratic", or "republics" by most reasonable people, but there is no internal contradiction. The Roman Catholic Church may or may not be "holy", "catholic" (i.e. universal), and "apostolic" (i.e. directly descended from the apostles), as it calls itself, but even if you consider it unholy, parochial, and unapostolic, "the holy, catholic, and apostolic church" is not an oxymoron. What is oxymoronic about the phrase "Roman Catholic" is the internal contradiction between "Roman" (a specific place) and "Catholic" (meaning universal).

I have abjured edit-warring (well, at least most of the time), so I will not make my edits again; I will let other editors do so if they agree with them. But let me just say that I find it unwikipedian to characterize other editors' good-faith edits as "vandalism". --Macrakis 20:18, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Thank you very much for providing good explanations for your thinking on this matter. That I can respect.....;-) My use of the description "vandalism" may have been misplaced. I consider such large scale deletions of other's work to be in that category. Maybe that's an improper use of the term, and from your explanation I can see it was done in good faith. My apologies. You have my respect -- Fyslee 20:29, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

I agree with Macrakis that his deletions were of "poor examples" of oxymora and have deleted them. I also agree that it is unwikipedian to characterize other editors' good-faith edits as "vandalism". Levine2112 20:50, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

As a followup to this discussion: even now that some of the most nonsensical examples have been deleted, I find the rest to still not make much sense at all. Except for two or three ("accidental propaganda", "truthful propaganda"; "credible liar" perhaps), none of these can be called oxymoron under any meaningful interpretation of the term, IMHO. (Rather than giving my reasons for every single case now, let anybody challenge me over whatever item in the list they think is a fine example of an oxymoron, and I'll gladly explain why I think it's not.) I'd really say the whole list should go. Lukas (T.|@) 12:35, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
You're welcome to your POV, but that itself isn't reason enough to judge or remove contributions. "Nonsensical" and "not make much sense at all" are your descriptions based on your POV. So what? They mean something to others, and thus have their own form for legitimacy. No one is demanding that you use those examples. I'm sure you can contribute some others that you find interesting. -- Fyslee 17:22, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
Well, I'm not going to fight about this, but yes, of course, thinking as I do that these examples are factually incorrect is reason enough to "judge" them, i.e. to try to persuade other editors that they shouldn't be here. Since when has it been against Wikipedia policy to argue about the factual correctness of things on talk pages? I have no doubts that they "mean" something to those who contributed them, but I am of the opinion that whatever they may mean to anybody cannot legitimately be described as an oxymoron. Or would you like to explain to me in what sense it is part of the inherent meaning of the term "corporate" that it cannot possibly be "ethical"? Or in what sense it is part of the inherent meaning of the term "military" that it cannot possibly go together with "intelligence"? (Not even talking about the fact that this is playing with two unrelated senses of "intelligence" in a rather misleading way.) Sure, I am not obliged to "use those examples" - but I dread the day when I'll find my students happily quoting them to me in their termpapers. Sorry, but I really really do think that these are just factually wrong. Lukas (T.|@) 19:21, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
I suspect the problem here is the concept of "perceived" oxymora. That's the heading, although real oxymora have crept into the list. (We've been a bit careless....;-) If you will read the article itself, maybe it will help you to understand why some of those contributions are there. They don't have to always be contradictory, and the creative use of alternate meanings of words is precisely what makes them "oxymoronic." That's what makes them humorous to those who understand their normal use, because only they can then "read between the lines." That's what also makes some oxymora esoteric. -- Fyslee 19:50, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

OK, so let's separate the list into classic oxymorons, and the joke-type oxymorons a la "military music". Remember, WP is supposed to document, not judge. --Macrakis 20:05, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, let's separate the list, clarify the structure (currently the list is not, as Fyslee said, technically under the heading of "perceived" as opposed to real oxymora!), and also clarify the section about those "perceived oxymora" itself. Lukas (T.|@) 22:47, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
Sounds good. Let's still try to keep the perceived example as good solid examples; not completely esoteric ones. If an oxymoron requires explanation for the average user then I don't think it is a good example to have on this article. Levine2112 23:02, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Clarifying "perceived oxymora"[edit]

Coming back to our discussion the other day: I think what makes the section intro on "perceived oxymora" so misleading is an ambiguity about the term "speaker" as used in the text. Are we referring to:

(1) the speaker who actually uses the expression claimed to be an oxymoron, or to
(2) the speaker who talks about the expression, claiming it to be an oxymoron?

It's a use-vs.-mention thing. With real oxymora, it's speaker (1) who is operating consciously with the rhetorical effects of paradox. With the perceived oxymora, speaker (1) typically uses the expressions without any thoughts of paradox; the rhetorical effect, employed more or less seriously, is purely on the side of (2) - who is often not himself a user of the expression but rather wants to disparage its use in its common meaning. I'll try to reword and clarify the section along these lines. Lukas (T.|@) 18:01, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

Okay, I've done a stab at a restructured text section there. I'd suggest that editors who have contributed examples sort them into the sections where they find they fit best (possibly with an explanation - there are some items in the list I find hard to understand how they are intended). - I'm afraid the lists are going to remain some problem, as they are obvious vandalism targets. Lukas (T.|@) 19:43, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

Can we remove a couple of the "examples"?[edit]

I think the purported examples "evolutionary morality", "creation science", "magical thinking", "safe sex", "smart bomb", and maybe "treat wellness" should all be removed.

I've never heard of the term "evolutionary morality" in my life, and I don't think that the words are contradictory in any way.
Though the concept of Creationism is not science, the two terms are not inherently contradictory.
"Magical thinking"... I don't understand. Perhaps it was vandalism...?
Sex can indeed be safe. It's inaccurate, deceitful and pushing someone's agenda to, in an encyclopedia, pretend that the two words contradict eachother.
I don't think that the terms "smart bomb" or "treat wellness" are oxymorons either.
Surely, if a bomb were truly smart, it would refuse to explode? On the other hand, "Microsoft Works" and "reality television"... :-) 14:53, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

--Berserk798 01:00, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Well since no one seems to care... --Berserk798 05:42, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
We should remove the entire list from this article... since it's redundent to List_of_oxymora. I'll do it in an a few days if noone objects.---J.Smith 23:36, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
Err, you want to remove all the examples from the article? I think some obvious and famous ones should be kept just so the article could be understood better. I think many of the Popular Oxymorons aren't really popular and those should be deleted. --Guruparan 16:02, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Sounds like a plan. --Berserk798 21:59, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

"Larger half" isn't necessarily contradictory; "half" can (as in this case) mean the result of any division into two, not necessarily equal, parts. A similar usage is found in heraldry, where an achievement of arms may be said to be divided into (for example) six "quarters".


"Microsoft Works" as an oxymoron.

It's easy to remember the definition of oxymoron. The two words don't make sense, thus you are a moron for saying so.

I think we have way too many categories for one type of word usage in the English language.

Speaking of the English language, what part of speech is "please"?

最後の最初のチップを提供する (talk) 21:19, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

"Same Difference" is NOT an Oxymoron. The 'Difference' in the phrase refers to the mathematical concept of the 'distance between' (delta), as in the difference between 5 and 2 is 3. Therefore 'Same Difference' refers to the fact that something is the same distance away from a common point. Therefore the phrase is used correctly and not an oxymoron when explaining two varying concepts or ways to accomplish the same task.

No. "Same Difference" as a phrase is a deliberate oxymoron used to indicate that whilst 2 things might be different, the differences are irrelevant and so the things are effectively the same.
E.g. If pointed out to someone that you were about to be eaten by a crocadile, and they remarked that it was in actual fact an alligator, you might say "same difference". Whether it's a crocodile or an alligator isn't really the core issue, the important fact is that it has a big mouth with lots of teeth and is about to eat you. (talk) 22:09, 7 June 2009 (UTC)
I.E. same difference is a synonym of "equidistant." NERVUN (talk) 22:38, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Pointed Foolishness[edit]

In order to support the previous Wiktionary definition of an oxymoron as "pointedly foolish," this article asserted that the word meant that two contradictory terms were combined to make a point. This was done instead of simply showing the origin of oxymoron from "sharp dull" as an example of two opposing adjectives being predicated of one subject. Can anyone stretch their minds and give examples of being "pointedly foolish"?Lestrade 12:09, 21 September 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

Microsoft Works[edit]

This is a joke. Microsoft software doesn't work!! See the Win98 World Premier. Bill Gates shows it to the world and it crashes!!!

another funny one is secure windows in reference to microsoft. I always liked when the coach said for a slow run

Except, Microsoft's software works perfectly fine for millions of people world wide on a daily basis. If it didn't, they wouldn't be dominating the market they way they are. In any case this page is for talking about the article and not for discussing Microsoft. ---J.S (T/C/WRE) 16:44, 18 August 2007 (UTC)
I would disagree for that piece of software, "Microsoft Works", because 'Works' (as it's called) is purposly incompatible with other Microsoft software. This means that for any purpose that involves sharing electronic forms of documents it patently does not work. (talk) 13:00, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
In my opinion, it's a lighthearted joke that gets the point across pretty well. Sure, we're no uncyclopedia, but that doesn't mean we have to suck the fun out of everything like a clan of vampires at the circus. I think that it should be kept. Whoever put that gem in, well done. For the first time in a while, Wikipedia has made me smile. Typically, editors seem very keen on making these pages intolerably wordy and dull, with their attempts to get an average letters-per-word count of about twelve. Believe it or not, there's some truth in the old idea that the simplest answers are often best. TheDarkFlame (talk) 22:31, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
Bill Gates in South Park was so funny in his role. For those who haven't seen it...

General: Oh, what's wrong with this thing? [goes to the base of the holograph, opens a small door and presses some buttons] It's fuckin' Windows '98! Get Bill Gates in here [several soldiers escort Bill Gates in] You told us Windows '98 would be faster, and more efficient, with better access to the Internet! Bill Gates: It is faster. Over five million [BANG. Bill falls away as the general lowers his gun] 最後の最初のチップを提供する (talk) 21:46, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Military Intelligence[edit]

Military intelligence is not an oxymoron, which is the opposition between two predicates or attributes that are said to belong to one subject. Also, the concept of Intelligence does not mean, in this case, understanding the causes of perceived changes, or understanding. It is suppposed to mean Intelligence (information gathering).Lestrade 21:41, 17 October 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

That's why it's been removed 400+ times. ---J.S (t|c) 21:45, 17 October 2006 (UTC)
Even if the phrase was "Military Smart" it wouldn't be an oxymoron because the word "military" doesnt mean stupid. (except, perhaps in the context of a discussing a particular military that has a certified low-IQ) But...err... anyway. We don't' need to document every oxymoron here anyway. ---J.S (t|c) 00:04, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Pretty Ugly[edit]

Pretty ugly is not an oxymoron, which is the opposition between two predicates or attributes that are said to belong to one subject. Pretty is here used to mean "very" and it is mistakenly thought to mean "having an attractive appearance." 23:05, 17 October 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

Often oxymoron's are based on the literal meaning of the word and not the contextual meaning. ---J.S (t|c) 23:18, 17 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the adjective "pretty," in "pretty ugly," has a contextual meaning of "very." Ambiguous and equivocal words, of which there are a great multitude, have more than one literal meaning.Lestrade 23:39, 17 October 2006 (UTC)Lestrade
Right, but the oxymoron is a way to play with words and create ironic contraditions in literature. The implied meaning and the literal meaning are both to be considered in this regard. ---J.S (t|c) 00:01, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Hmm, well the implied and literal meaning are both the same. I do think that it is an oxymoron. In literary terms it is but the meaning doesn't necessary contrast but simply emphasizes the degree of ugliness.--Guruparan 15:58, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Pretty ugly is not an oxymoron. Anyone can see that. As someone has stated pretty here means 'very'. Something can be pretty nasty or pretty big and not have anything to do with how pleasing it is to the eye. It's coming off the list! Cls14 16:54, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
"Pretty" can mean good looking as well. Whatever, we don't need more then a few examples anyway. ---J.S (T/C) 17:08, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

J. Rodney McBain[edit]

Editor J. Rodney McBain claims that a necessary attribute of an oxymoron is that it be wise. This is false. It need only consist of contradictory predicates being declared as characteristics of one grammatical subject. An example is: "The knife is sharp dull (oxy moron)."Lestrade 20:18, 24 October 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

"Bitter sweet"[edit]

Is bitter sweet (or bittersweet) really an oxymoron? Bitterness and sweetness are two separate attributes, sensed by separate parts of the tongue but are no more opposite than sour and salty and are not mutually exclusive. I suppose whoever added it assumed that sweet = good taste, bitter = bad taste, but that's just a matter of... taste. Asteroceras 12:29, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Good point. High-cocoa-content chocolate is simultaneously bitter and sweet. 14:49, 18 April 2007 (UTC)


Somebody had added the claim that the japanese term for an oxymoron literally meant "dull-sharp". I can find NO evidence of this in any of my reference books -- the two words I found literally mean "contradictory terms" and "disagreeing terms" (roughly). If anyone has evidence of an actual japanese idiom that means "oxymoron" by giving an example, I'll happily shut up, though. 03:52, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Well, the claim is close but no cigar. I'm halfway through a Japanese course, and according to my book of Joyo Kanji (The most common kanji [Symbols used to represent an object or common idea]), the symbol for halberd next to the symbol for shield means "contradiction". While the word is a oxymoron, that's not the equivalent Japanese word to oxymoron.


The picture, if it works, shows these symbols.
Hope that's clearer now.
TheDarkFlame (talk) 22:21, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

"The child is father of the man"[edit]

Surely this is a true oxymoron, in the original sense of the term (something which appears to be a contradiction in terms, but on further thought turns out not to be) -- I've several times seen it defined as such.

  • Then cite it. It's a poetic expression, not an oxymoron, as I see it. Wahkeenah 15:49, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Unhealthy Food[edit]

One of the oxymora didn't seem to be an oxymoron, so I'm replacing it. I think this is humorous enough and fits the criteria. Hopefully won't get any critics. ChozoBoy 02:22, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

We don't need any more examples.... and "unhealthy food" isn't exactly a catch-phrase. Thanks, ---J.S (T/C/WRE) 18:08, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Never Say Never[edit]

I didn't see this in the article, maybe it should be included. Reginmund 03:06, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

"Never say never" is a contradiction, not an oxymoron. It is a command to avoid saying "never," but "never" is said in the command. Therefore the statement denies or contradicts itself. An oxymoron, on the other hand, is the attribution of opposing predicates to one (grammatical) subject, as in "The statue is made of wooden metal." This reflects the origin of the word from "oxy" (sharp) and "moros" (dull) in which those opposing characteristics are said to belong, at the same time, to one object or thing. Lestrade 13:28, 24 June 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Which is it?[edit]

An oxymoron is the attribution of two conflicting predicates to one subject. Example: The knife is sharp dull. An oxymoron is the attribution of one inappropriate predicate to a subject. Example: The dwarf is tall. Are both definitions correct or is only one definition correct? I hope that this question isn't thought to be pointedly foolish.Lestrade 16:32, 20 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Permanent change[edit]

Can't "permanent change" be included here as an oxymoron? dirty but clean 07:51, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Sounds fine, but do we really need more examples? ---J.S (T/C/WRE) 17:55, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Why not add it to List of oxymora?

Known unknowns[edit]

I really think this one is a good one. Since this is unlike the others given now, it adds a value, in my opinion. -- Taku (talk) 23:04, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Claim doesn't even make sense?[edit]

"An oxymoron is used mainly to create humour thus, for example leading an audience watching a play, to think about what's happening and give them a deeper more meaningful understanding of the text."

This seems like a really specific example; maybe you can elaborate a little bit more, perhaps give an example of oxymorons used that way in a play. Also, how can an audience watching a play get a better understanding of the text if they are watching it, not reading it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:52, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

Intellectual Property[edit]

Another example? - Although in some ways this is worse than an oxymoron - see words to avoid. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:38, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Moved examples[edit]

A few other examples are: act naturally & seriously funny JERRY talk contribs 04:33, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

List of oxymora is being considered for deletion[edit]

The article List of oxymora is being considered for deletion. See Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/List of oxymora 2. --Coppertwig (talk) 23:34, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Living dead?[edit]

Isn't this a perfect example of an oxymoron used unintentionally? Anajus (talk) 18:13, 10 January 2008 (UTC)Anajus

"List of oxymora" was deleted[edit]

Some editors jumped on the article "List of oxymora" and nominated it for deletion. It survived in 2005, but this time it came up for deletion. "List of oxymora" was deleted on 2008-01-08.[4] Wikipedia violates its own principle of keeping previous edits available -- the deleted page and its history and discussion are gone. The list is surely far from perfect in content and organization. But it may be of interest to people editing this article (Oxymoron).

The page is visible (today) via Google's cache. Before it disappears forever, here's a copy of the former "List of oxymora" article. (I doubt it will be helpful, but feel free to further screw up this list in place.)

List of oxymora[edit]

This is a list of oxymora, which are figures of speech that combine two normally contradictory words.

Please note that just because a phrase describes something non-existent that does not make it an oxymoron. "Partly pregnant" is an impossibility, not an oxymoron.

List of genuine oxymora[edit]

Phrases with an inherent contradiction.[citation needed]

  • a little big
    • Slightly too large. Not an oxymoron.
  • accidentally on purpose
  • advanced beginner
    • Not an oxymoron. If the first 10 points out of a hundred are the "beginner" stage, someone at 9 would be regarded as advanced within that stage.
  • arid ocean
  • boneless ribs
    • Apparent oxymoron; refers to "ribs" as in a cut of meat, not as in a type of bone.
  • constant variable
  • cruel kindness
  • dangerously safe
  • deafening silence (& loud silence etc.)
  • definite maybe
  • deliberate mistake
  • deliberately thoughtless
  • Digital Film
    • Apparent oxymoron; refers to 'film' as a recording medium rather than a specific type of such.
  • found missing
    • Apparent: definition of 'found' used is 'discovered' rather than 'located.'
  • forever's end
  • forward lateral
  • friendly fire
    • Not an oxymoron at all; the term describes fire which originates from a friendly unit, not bullets which are friendly.
  • genuine imitation (& genuine replica, etc.)
  • guest host (and permanent guest host, a rare triple oxymoron)
  • genuine illusion
  • holy hell
    • Apparent: uses holy as a multiplier rather than as a word with a specific meaning.
  • hearing visions
  • hidden in plain view
    • Apparent oxymoron; describes the phenomenon of something being hard to see on account of it not being hidden when it would be reasonable to expect it to be.
  • Hot Ice®
    • Is a product name.
  • humanitarian bombing
    • Should probably avoid political ones. Highly dependant on the reader's politics and the situation in question as to whether this would be considered an oxymoron or not (for example, wouldn't bombing the railway lines going into Auschwitz have counted as a "humanitarian" act?)
  • idiot savant
  • instant classic
    • An early prediction that something will later be regarded as a classic.
  • justifiable paranoia
    • Paranoia is excessive suspicion. There are circumstances where being extremely suspicous can be justified.
  • kosher ham
  • limited omniscience
  • liquid gas (dubious – discuss)
  • living dead
  • local long distance
  • loud whisper
    • Not an oxymoron. Unless you think there is a single specific volume of whisper, a whisper can be particularly loud or quiet.
  • mandatory option
  • medicated sobriety
  • mindless thinking
    • "Mindless" is typically held to involve a lack of intelligence, not a lack of an actual mind.
  • modest magnificence
  • Noise Music
    • Music is a type of noise, this isn't an oxymoron at all.
  • only choice
    • Usually means 'only sensible choice.'
  • open secret
    • Not inherently contradictory, since the idea is the thing is subject to secrecy even though everyone knows about it, not that is is a secret.
  • original copy
    • Not an oxymoron; all 'copies' of a work includes the original.
  • pianoforte
  • planned chaos
    • You can create a plan which includes a part where you stop following it.
  • rolling stop (driving)
  • scatter-hoarder
  • solid gold plated
    • Unless the plating is liquid or a gas, this is not an oxymoron.
  • stop motion
  • suicide victim
  • supervised independence
  • sweet sorrow
  • timeless moment
  • trained inept
  • true lies
  • virtual real estate
  • woke up dead
Added notes. Herr Gruber (talk) 17:31, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

List of perceived oxymora[edit]

These are not really oxymora; they sound like a contradiction but aren't, often because of multiple possible meanings of one of the words.

  • active retirement
  • act naturally
  • adult children
  • advanced BASIC
  • agree to disagree
  • almost exactly
  • alone together
  • Arabic antisemitism
  • artificial life
  • athletic scholarship
  • Badly drunk
  • barely dressed
  • black light
  • black sun
  • burning cold
  • charm offensive
  • civil war
  • clearly misunderstood
  • cold sweat
  • concession stand
  • constant change
  • creative destruction
  • Dodge Ram
  • drawing a blank
  • dry ice
  • even odds
  • fine mess
  • freezer burn
  • fresh frozen
  • full-time hobby
  • good grief
  • Great Depression
  • growing smaller
  • hard water
  • hopelessly optimistic
  • idiot savant
  • infinite number
  • jumbo shrimp
  • legally forbidden
  • Liberal Conservative
  • live recording
  • loud whisper
  • military intelligence
  • minor disaster
  • near miss
  • new and improved
  • new tradition
  • non-dairy creamer
  • old news
  • open code
  • partial ceasefire
  • partially completed
  • peace force
  • Political Correctness
  • poor little rich girl
  • premenstrual period
  • presidential palace
  • pretty ugly
  • quiet hum
  • really sarcastic
  • radio show
  • random order
  • same difference
  • self-help
  • seriously funny
  • sinfully good
  • sixteen petite
  • small crowd
  • standard deviation
  • standard options
  • static variable
  • student teacher
  • terribly good
  • sun shower
  • totally partial (to something)
  • unbelievably real
  • unhealthy food
  • unsalted saltine
  • waning crescent (crescent is Latin for "growing", related to the word crescendo)
  • white gold
  • working stiff

Joke oxymora[edit]

These are phrases where a comic effect or opinion point is made by pretending that they are oxymora. For example, the joke is that by stating that "Microsoft Works" is an oxymoron, implying that Microsoft can't make a piece of software that works. An almost infinite number of these can be constructed. Whether these phrases are actually oxymora depends on the reader's point of view; someone who believes that Microsoft does work, would not think that "Microsoft Works" is an oxymoron. Joke oxymora almost always involve stereotypes. For example, saying that "honest lawyer" is an oxymoron works on the stereotype that lawyers are liars. This too, is subject to a person's point of view.

One oxymoron we MAY want to consider using is from an ad for MechCommander 2, which goes like this. "Tactical Mass Destruction. One beautiful oxymoron." Now note, this is, in fact, an oxymoron due to the facts that tactical means small-scale (usually combat) and mass destruction means large scale (city, state, etc)

On a side note, I love oxymorons. Paradoxes are great too. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:09, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

"List of oxymora" was one of the first articles I ever tweaked. It leads to some interesting places. I'm still somewhat surprised that people think they are contributing when they delete content -- even frivolous crap like "List of oxymora". -Whiner01 (talk) 14:48, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for this. For now we could refer to external sources:
MovGP0 (talk) 19:59, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

Cleaning up[edit]

Now then: I've been trying to clean this article up a bit. Mostly this was moving sections around, but I also did some adding and deleting. Since the old article lists of oxymorons has been deleted, I put in a couple of links to lists (there are hundreds on the web), and a link to a Lederer article with a taxonomy of oxymora.

A trouble with the article, of course, is that a lot of people use the phrase "XX is an oxymoron" as a way of stating political opinion (e.g., "the phrase 'liberal thinking' is an oxymoron".... "'compassionate conservative' is an oxymoron".... "'reasonable libertarian' is an oxymoron"-- to list just three). There were several of these in the article. I tried to put these all into the subheading "Oxymoron use as opinion". I did delete a few-- while I perfectly agree with the sentiment, the phrase "free speech zone" is not an oxymoron, since the word "zone" is not actually contracted by "Free speech". ("Restricted free speech" would be an oxymoron, but that wasn't the example). I also removed a Gomer Pyle reference, since it wasn't very clear in what sense, if any, there is a oxymoron in the single word "Shazaam").

It also seemed to make more sense to divide the section into deliberate oxymorons like "deafening silence" and unintentional oxymorons like "Jumbo shrimp", where the oxymoron comes from reinterpreting the noun shrimp (a type of crustacean) to the adjective shrimpy (meaning small). I made this division, and added a few examples of deliberate oxymorons like Little Big Man, since after dividing the list up the examples in that section were pretty scant. Geoffrey.landis (talk) 14:49, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Problems with the article that's there now[edit]


1.the etymology is misleading

2.most of the examples are wrong

3.the excursions into math, physics and linguistics are inappropriate and confusing

4.the terminology is non-standard (as far as I know)

5.the article as a whole is uninformative and misleading, and far below the Wikipedia standard.

6.for some reason, the subject attracts humorists and vandals, and should be locked.

Draft of a completely new article[edit]


From 5th cen. Lat. oxymoron, from Gr. ὀξύς, sharp + μωρός, dull, foolish. [5]. The actual word ὀξύμωρον is not found in the extant Greek sources, according to the OED [6].


"Oxymoron" is a figure of speech in which words or phrases with contrasting meanings or force are used together for effect. The effect can be ironic, humorous, paradoxical or merely emphatic. Here’s a well-known example:

yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe
Milton, Paradise Lost, 1.62ff.

and some others:

O quike deeth, O swete harm so queynte,
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, 1.411
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Marlowe, The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus
The darksome statesman, hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog, mov'd there so slow,
He did not stay, nor go;
Henry Vaughan, "The World"

Oxymorons are fairly common in Shakespeare:

Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
Romeo and Juliet, 1.1
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Ibid., 2.2
So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
Macbeth, 1.3

The following are not oxymorons, but paradoxes, paradoxes moreover that only seem to contradict themselves. The reconciling of opposites, not the clash of opposites, is the point:

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,—meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
Hamlet, 1.5

(Hamlet comments bitterly on his own naiveté. The keeper of a commonplace book and a keen student of life, he's been fooled nevertheless. He’s not contrasting opposites for effect, but saying villainy and a likable demeanor can go together.)

Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised!
King Lear, 1.1

(A series of seeming paradoxes that describe Cordelia's actual position—she’s literally both rich and poor, choice and forsaken, loved and despised.)

The gray area[edit]

Especially with the greatest poets, there are cases that are hard to classify, e.g.

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Is "ditties of no tone" a simple oxymoron, or the paradoxical language you need to describe a world frozen in time? This world has its own laws: it's silent, all activity is suspended, no explanations are forthcoming. But because it stands outside of time, the great sorrows of human life, rejection, loss, pain, futility, death, are absent. "Ditties of no tone", a perfect oxymoron in form, becomes almost a scientific metaphor, like "time's arrow", coined just now to refer to something with no other name.

How to identify a traditional oxymoron[edit]

All traditional oxymorons

  • combine two ideas usually thought of as opposite or incompatible
  • are intentional
  • are used to produce a certain effect.

In addition, most of them

  • are short and self-contained
  • provide emphasis
  • describe an extreme: "Words almost fail me--only an impossibility, a coinage, can give you a correct idea of this".

Chaucer used oxymorons unselfconsciously, but they became much less popular in Elizabethan times, especially in drama. Playwrights began to undermine their oxymorons, explaining or restating them, resorting to them only when emotions ran high, or using them satirically, (cf. Romeo and Juliet). Probably contributing to this were (1) the influence of Marlowe, who used oxymoron only rarely; (2) a dislike of Euphuism; (3) increased psychological realism, to the detriment of the artificial, the archaic, and the obscure.

Another way "oxymoron" has been used[edit]

More recently, oxymoron has also been used as an exact synonym for "contradiction in terms", (Lat. contradictio in adjecto, self-contradiction), while its original meaning has been forgotten by almost everyone. Contradiction is a logical, not a rhetorical, concept: you can allege, believe, doubt, deny, disprove, confirm, that a proposition contradicts itself. An oxymoron, on the other hand, is a device employed consciously for effect. It's purposely illogical; it can be unfair or misleading, but not false. But this use has become very widespread, and readers are more likely to understand "oxymoron" in its modern, than in its traditional, sense.

An example of the modern oxymoron is

the world's smallest giant.
C. S. Lewis (?)

These days, "oxymoron" is almost always a jokeword, and this is an important factor in its spread. It's a long, peculiar word, too technical for most contexts, and (let’s be honest) does sound a little strange in an English sentence. To say it aloud, you have to say "ox", "oxy", and "moron", which are slightly funny in their own right. Fowler [Modern English Usage, 1st ed.] calls the use of long, unfamiliar words "polysyllabic humor", and is clearly disapproving.

Wikipedia does not take a position on the subject of lame humor in writing. But considering the flawed rationale for using "oxymoron", the unlikelihood that it will provide anything more in the way of entertainment, and the existence of a perfectly usable synonym, we suggest that anyone planning to use "oxymoron" in its non-technical sense think carefully before doing so.

A few of many possible objections to my replacement article[edit]

1.Some people will feel this article violates Wikipedia's principle of neutrality or its reluctance to prescribe. I don't, personally, but the principle is extremely important in other cases, and tolerating value-judgments here may be used to justify the lowering of standards elsewhere.

2.The "normative" philosophy favored by American dictionaries may be invoked. (For instance, if "reticent" is used to mean "reluctant" by enough people for long enough, then it means "reluctant"—vox populi vox Dei—and etymology be damned.)

3.Some people will want the humorous remarks taken out.

MrDebaker (talk) 05:15, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

"team of mavericks"[edit]

Thank you for the reference to Sarah Palin and her gleeful speeches.

Microsoft Works[edit]

I've removed this from the Deliberate Oxymoron section twice now. Please stop adding this, It's not an oxymoron.

At best it's a weak joke, so If you're deperate to include it put it under the section of 'humourous' examples, but not in the main article. This isn't the appropriate forum for your anti-microsoft digs (deserved or otherwise). (talk) 13:30, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

These are bad examples right here[edit]

"Virtual reality" is not an oxymoron, amirite? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:04, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

"Small fortune" means a small amount of fortune. Jumbo shrimp is a relatively large crustacean. Small crowd is a small audience. Great deficiency is a deficiency that is overwhelming. Silent alarm still alarms people; alarms do not have to emit noise to notify anyone. Military intelligence: what? Together alone means a group, alone from others. I have removed these due to quality reasons. I have also fixed capitalizations and turned Atheist to Atheist.

I have added "Expensive Linux" to the list as a great example of what could be an oxymoron. If you think it should be removed, see what the others think.

If you have any questions, you can use my user:talk. --X-Fi6 —Preceding undated comment was added at 03:15, 7 October 2008 (UTC).

"Friendly fire" is not an oxymoron. It describes an incoming attack from allied ("friendly") sources. The "fire" isn't friendly, but its source is. Mookmerkin (talk) 19:06, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

The fire is neither friendly nor unfriendly, or do bullets now have personalities? (talk) 13:07, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. "Virtual reality" is a description of the reality in question. Just as virtual scissors aren't scissors because they're virtual, virtual reality isn't reality because it's virtual.

Such things are only loosely oxymorons as they are only oxymorons if misinterpreted by taking them entirely literally, only using specific meanings of the words, and considering them as disconnected words. Just as the above examples - virtual reality is only an oxymoron if virtual reality were a description of reality, as opposed to stating that what is described is specifically not reality. (talk) 13:07, 30 July 2011 (UTC)


I think "pianoforte" needs to be removed from the list of oxymorons. As many piano students know, prior to the development of the pianoforte, there were other keyboard instruments. The hurdy gurdy, clavichord, harpsichord, and others were not really adjustable volume-wise. If one pressed a key on a harpsichord, for example, the note would sound at approximately the same volume without regard to how the key was pressed (see <>). While the clavichord had more volume control, it was overall quiet. (Ibid.)

However, a new keyboard was developed that could play both loudly (forte) and softly (piano). To celebrate this achievement and the flexibility it afforded musicians and composers, it was named the clavicembalo col piano e forte or the pianoforte. The nickname "piano" would be a better candidate for an oxymoron since that instrument can play both soft and loud, unlike its less-flexible predecessors. See also (talk) 03:30, 2 January 2009 (UTC)Jenny Walsh

Whilst you're certainly right about the where the name came from, technically, I think it's still an oxymoron as the word is composed of 2 contradicting concepts (like the word oxymoron itself)... (talk) 23:56, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

Pianoforte means loud and soft, just as a motorbike is a motor and a bike. It's like having a piece of foam with one side coated in glass, then saying "That's both hard and soft! It's a paradox!". It's not a paradox. The glass is hard, the foam is soft. (talk) 13:07, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Reasonable force[edit]

How is this an oxymoron? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:26, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

I guess that whoever wrote that believes that using force is never reasonable. What an ideal world they live in. TheDarkFlame (talk) 10:11, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Jumbo shrimp[edit]

Shrimp is the name of a sea creature. Jumbo shrimp indicates a large size of said creature - not an oxymoron. Also, I've been in software development since 1978 and have yet to hear anyone refer to "constant variables" - if this is an "adopted" term in common use, it must be very localized somewhere. Just not in Silicon Valley. Also, solid water is a valid reference. Water is matter, just like anything else, and there are generally three states of matter: gas, liquid and solid. At room temperature, water is in liquid form - that is what we are most familiar with. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it freezes...or becomes solid. But it is still water. We just know it more familiarly as ice. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:37, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

George Carlin was the one who defined "Jumbo Shrimp" as an oxymoron in the same skit as "military intelligence" ... it is a word play and not a true oxymoron. (talk) 15:12, 5 February 2011 (UTC)
As for "constant variables" that is a VERY old software term from the early days of computers ... it originated in the era of batch processing and was often called "VKDATA" where the VK stood for "Variable K[c]onstant" (the letter "K" was used for constants because the letter "C" was used for something else, I forget what right now). VKDATA was information that could vary from one batch run to another but once the program execution started the data was constant. It was sort of like parameter data but could encompass a lot more than simple parameters as they were used in those days. I will see if I can find an old IBM utilities manual for a citation. (talk) 15:12, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

Women's rights[edit]

I was the one who removed this one from the list. Unless this is some English or obscure reference I'm not getting, it seems more like a chauvinistic remark from me. (Unless it is referencing to the period in time where it was used as a pretended contradiction by the counter female rights group back in the 50's... which was just an intended mockery and not a realy oxymoron. ) ~Proto

George Carlin[edit]

What exactly is George Carlin's contribution to the english language that warrants several inclusions in this article? He is not a linguist. I think I will modify this article in the future.Brutaldeluxe (talk) 23:17, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Certainly don't modify it in the past! That could cause paradoxes! ---J.S (T/C/WRE) 22:18, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

We have to add it 'clean coal' as oxymoron[edit]

Because of simple reason which we can figure out easily: Coal isn't clean, so impossible to have it clean coal. Okay —Preceding unsigned comment added by B767-500 (talkcontribs) 17:05, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

We don't "have" to add it because it isn't an oxymoron. "Clean" is not the opposite of "Coal", it is the opposite of "Dirty". Whilst coal could generally be considered to be dirty, the two words don't mean the same thing. You wouldn't ever say "I need to clean my car it's coal", or "It's cold, put some more dirty on the fire". You could add it to the "Oxymorons used as an opinion" section if you liked though, as it fits that category pretty well. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:21, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

Well, Moros means dull. We all can figure where moron comes from now. 最後の最初のチップを提供する (talk) 21:14, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Apparent contradiction in etymology[edit]

The etymology given in the article section appears to contradict the etymology mentioned in the lead section. Someone with a source might want to correct or clarify that. Shimeru 20:19, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

One fine day in the middle of the night[edit]

On the poem One fine day in the middle of the night now is a "citation needed" tag. This is a really old piece of "tangletalk" that is in thousands of books (really!), in many variants recorded from children. See for example this. (talk) 03:36, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

A Wikipedia Example[edit]

This Wikipedia category seems to qualify: Category:High-importance_Pokémon_articles (talk) 01:12, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Pokemon is a multi-million dollar industry including trading cards, videos, software, books, toys, costumes, textiles, food products, etc. To a person who makes their living with Pokemon I suspect these are very high importance article. Likewise to an enthusiast these would be high importance. Very disrespectful and inaccurate to suggest that this was an oxymoron. (talk) 15:27, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

Cannot be Wikipediaed[edit]

I think I've encountered my first subject that should NOT be in Wikipedia. When the talk page is MUCH longer than the main article, something's up. It's the examples, of course. Obvious personal bias has crept in when the following are given as examples of oxymorons: "evolutionary morality", "magical thinking", "safe sex" (is it never safe?), and "smart bomb" (yep! bombs are stupid). The preceding are NOT oxymorons. The definition of oxymoron should be left to the dictionaries with one example: "deafening silence". Dangnad (talk) 01:24, 8 February 2011 (UTC)

Democratic republic[edit]

This is not a true example of an oxymoron, more of a tautology. "Republic" and "democracy" are synonyms, the former from Latin (res publica - thing of the people) and the latter from Greek (dimo - people, kratia - ruling). It adds to the stupidity when you have a "people's democractic republic". The opposite terms are "state" and "Kingdom" (also "principality", "emirate", etc. where applicable) as these all suggest a centralised power. The best examples of oxymorons are those where a ceremonial monarchy lies in place while the nation engages in electoral activity come the time for voting. Perhaps "this state is democratic but that republic is a dictatorship" is a fine double example in a sentence (referring possibly to Sweden and China, you can work out which is which!) Evlekis (Евлекис) 19:52, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

Is this an Oxymoron or a self-refuting idea?[edit]

This section intentionally left blank. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:18, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Edit request from, 1 October 2011[edit]

"Left-libertarian" redirects to the "Oxymoron" page; this should be changed (Very funny, you Rand-loving right-wingers, although you in your ignorance probably missed the fact that leftists coined the term "libertarian" in the first place). (talk) 17:22, 1 October 2011 (UTC)

Fixed. It was ultimately due to this bit of vandalism. --Stemonitis (talk) 17:44, 1 October 2011 (UTC)

Original Copy[edit]

After much debate, 'Original Copy' was concluded to be not an oxymoron and so was removed from Inadvertent oxymorons and replaced with instant classic. A copy is an instance of something. In the same way you can have a single instance, you can have a single copy. That single copy is therefore the original. It might get a bit more fuzzy in digital, however. --James Pain (talk) 14:11, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Instant classic isn't really one either, it's a preemptive value judgement ("this is so good that someday it will be regarded as a classic"). Still, I yanked that section, it was unsourced for years and unlikely to ever be sourced (there's no way to cite whether an oxymoron was "inadvertant" or not), plus it contained "objective opinion" which isn't an oxymoron in the slightest. Herr Gruber (talk) 17:40, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

here's an oxymoron unlisted --neo-conservative[edit]

Is this not an oxymoron, even by strict definition?

No. You can quite easily be a conservative, and be new. The "conservative" applies to your politics, the "neo" applies to you and your application of them. --Escape Orbit (Talk) 17:44, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 4 April 2012[edit]

Displayed reference #7 displays the name of the first illustration in the paper ( "The Unfindable (Marcel Mariën)" ), while the paper is entitled ( "More on Oxymoron - Patrick Hughes" ). Not sure if this can be changed since the erroneous title is the name of pdf document.

Michel Godfroid (talk) 13:59, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Done I collapsed that into the other citation. Thanks, Celestra (talk) 20:36, 5 April 2012 (UTC)

Unrelated image?[edit]

While I love articles that have an image, the one here is a sculpture that does nothing to explain the concept of an oxymoron. The only thing it appears to share with the article is that it has the same title, I suspect it's more of a promotional photo for the artist. --Ifnord (talk) 20:09, 12 May 2012 (UTC)

Done Image removed. Thanks, Cheezwzl (talk) 01:46, 6 October 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 28 October 2012[edit]

helpdesk (talk) 23:04, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Not done: please be more specific about what needs to be changed. HueSatLum 00:16, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Single Word Oxymoron[edit]

The article could make a mention the single word oxymoron, the "short" (in the legal sense). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:09, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

Funny, but I think the reference is too esoteric. BTW, "oxymoron" is itself a one-word oxymoron, making it an autological word. Grollτech (talk) 16:04, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 19 February 2013[edit]

Greysonskro (talk) 19:44, 19 February 2013 (UTC) I wanna edit cuz I am smart.

Not done: Please provide a specific request to edit this article. —KuyaBriBriTalk 21:31, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 22 October 2013: Uses of Oxymorons[edit]

I would like to add this section to the page of Oxymoron: Edit: I apologize for my lack of sources, I have added them and hope the edit of my prose makes this section an acceptable addition to the page.

A common context in which one can find an oxymoron is in instances of comedy or satire. Reliable sources of jocular oxymorons are the plethora of critical reviews of sub-par movies. The following quotation is an excerpt from Richard Roeper's review of Runner Runner: "... devolves into a by-the-books thriller." [1] . phrase is an example of the capability an oxymoron possesses when utilized correctly. It is contradictory, satirizing, and also enlightening. A reviewer referring to the movie as "by-the-books" parodies the movie, while simultaneously epitomizing the reason the reviewer did not enjoy the film: a thriller should not be predictable. As a result of this solitary oxymoron, the sentiment of the reader has been influenced immeasurably.

A historically adequate use of oxymorons is illustrating confusion. Often referenced is Juliet's speech in reaction to Romeo's slaying of her cousin in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

O serpent heart hid with a flow’ring face! Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave? Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical! Dove-feather’d raven! Wolfish ravening lamb! Despised substance of divinest show! Just opposite to what thou justly seem’st, A damned saint, an honorable villain! O nature, what hadst thou to do in hell When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend In mortal paradise of such sweet flesh? Was ever book containing such vile matter So fairly bound? O that deceit should dwell In such a gorgeous palace!

This plethora of oxymorons is so dense it is an endeavor to make sense of this passage. This speech is indicative of how the contradictory manner of oxymorons has the potential to manifest the essence of confusion effectively.

Goekster (talk) 03:03, 22 October 2013 (UTC)Goekster

Not done: Aside from the fact that you offer no sources, this appears to be your own original commentary. For phrases like "an illuminating example", please see Wikipedia:EDITORIALIZING. Please also see the policies Wikipedia:No original research and Wikipedia:Verifiability. Sorry. --Stfg (talk) 10:28, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Still not done: This edit will not be made unless it is supported by sources. Please provide adequate ones before setting answered=no again. --Stfg (talk) 22:50, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Clarification: Apologies, I've just seen that you did add a source. However, while that source may contain an example of an oxymoron, it says nothing to support your theories about oxymorons. The same applies to linking to Romeo and Juliet. What you have contributed is an essay about oxymorons. Your sources need to support the views you've expressed, not merely provide more examples of oxymorons. --Stfg (talk) 10:37, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 8 December 2013[edit]

Anarcho-capitalism should be removed from the list of examples of oxymora. It makes the article look biased. Somebody could just as easily add "anarcho-socialism" and be just as wrong in using it as an example. I'm not sure this is an appropriate place for what appear to be petty political jabs. Hurryandtheharm (talk) 04:10, 8 December 2013 (UTC)

Done by Dennisoosterwaal. Jackmcbarn (talk) 06:07, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
Anarcho socialism is fine, as it can only exist by preventing people from being capitalists. (talk) 07:48, 8 December 2013 (UTC)Piepants


  • The word is widely pronounced as oxy/moron. However, it's classical Greek origins suggest it should be pronounced as ozy/moron or ozoo/moron. The 2nd and 3rd letters are Zi and Upsilon. Zi is generally like a short Z, and Upsilon is like a short Y or, OO ( e.g. look). (talk) 02:43, 19 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Ancient Greek Ξ ξ was pronounced "ks" everywhere including at the beginnings of words. Anthony Appleyard (talk) 16:11, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

Plural, redux[edit]

The decade or so old discussion at the top of this page reaches no clear conclusion other, perhaps, than that "oxymora" is a pedanticism. Which is how it appears in this article, as some weird pedantry. Oxymorons should be the plural (as I see it used often on this very talk page). Huw Powell (talk) 02:25, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Roeper, Richard (3 October 2013). "Poker Players Fall into Familiar Patterns". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 13 October 2013.