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Look at this expression. What’s unusual about it?
“It’s a definite possibility.”
This is what’s known as an oxymoron – a combination of words with ideas that seem to contradict one another. In this case, the word “definite” means that something is certain, but the word “possibility” doesn’t refer to certainty at all – so, the combination of words seems to be a contradiction.
Oxymorons are extremely common in English, and are often used in both spoken and written language. Here are a few more in bold type. How are they oxymorons?
a) The country was on the brink of civil war.
b) At last they were alone together.
c) We were all terribly pleased that the wedding went off so well.
d) Please return the original copy to me.
e) Lottery numbers come out in random order.
f) The salesman was a real phony.
g) The man was in ill health.
h) You clearly misunderstood what I wanted.
Oxymorons often appear in literature and are particularly popular with writers. For example:
a) “I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief.” (Charles Lamb).
b) “No light, but darkness rather visible.” (From John Milton’s description of hell in Paradise Lost.)
c) “…feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!” (From Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, who is attempting to describe their love.)
Some common expressions are often described as oxymorons. This is often done for comic effect. For example, people say that the term “military intelligence” is an oxymoron because the two words (“military” + “intelligence”) contradict one another – it can’t be “intelligent” if it’s got anything to do with the “military” (apologies to any professional soldiers out there!). Here are a few more common expressions that some people describe as oxymorons. Do you think they deserve to be classified as oxymorons?
– Airline food
– Educational TV
– British cuisine
– Married life
– Marital bliss
– Political leadership
– Government worker
– Computer security
– Political science
– Rap music
– Western culture
– Business ethics
– Benign tumour
– Political wisdom
– Civil servant
– Gourmet pizza
This is another fine mess you have got us into.
There is a real love hate relationship developing between the two of them.
Suddenly the room filled with a deafening silence.
The comedian was seriously funny.
You are clearly confused by the situation you have found yourself in.
Her singing was enough to raise the living dead.
Do you have the original copies that we requested?
This is a genuine imitation Rolex watch.
I really would like to try that new jumbo shrimp restaurant.
His new girlfriend really is pretty ugly.
Sorry, I can’t help you out right now, I am involved in my own minor crisis.
Give me the fifty dollars you owe me or pay for dinner, it’s the same difference.
My trip to Bali was very much a working holiday.
I let out a silent scream as the cat walked through the door carrying a dead bird.
You are going to have to use proofreading services, it is your only choice.
The seventies was the era of free love.
I will ask the professor for his unbiased opinion.
The constant variable is the one that does not change.
The sermon lasted for an endless hour.
We laughed and cried through the tragic comedy.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
They couldn’t wait to get out alone together.
We’ll use plastic glasses at the picnic.
The student teacher explained how to complete dissertation editing.
The gossip is old news.
The lady he eventually married is painfully beautiful.
Wow! This ice cream is disgustingly delicious.
Be careful in the playground, run slowly.
Your apple pie is awfully good.
A small crowd gathered to watch the concert.
It’s an open secret that they have been having an affair for the past six months.
He has a real passive aggressive personality.
You were awfully lucky to escape the car crash unscathed.
Stop being a big baby.
I am sure I am growing smaller as I get older.
She is my least favorite relation.
The story was based on the concept of a true myth.
That is an example of the typically weird behavior she continually demonstrates.
He has become an extremely unpopular celebrity.
I’m on a heavy diet until my wedding day.
I am a deeply superficial person.
I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief.
Good grief, we’re really late.
I can’t make any promises but it’s a definite possibility.
She was terribly pleased with her Birthday present.
The army returned friendly fire as the enemy approached.
He installed the new wireless cable in the television room.
He was forced to stand down from his position as president.
There will be zero tolerance in the future.
I had no choice but to do what I was told.
Fonte: Hot English Magazine