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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

3 Awfully Good Oxymoron Examples that are Seriously Funny


Oxymoron. A playful figure of speech pairing contradictory words. Can’t think of oxymoron examples off the top of your head? Consider this.

Remember that time you were on a working vacation when you came across the original copy of “The Sound of Silence” but the pages were in a random order? You were wearing your virtual reality headset so you don’t see the plastic silverware holding a piece of jumbo shrimp you knocked over, making a crash landing on the pages. The mess was pretty ugly so your only choice was the impossible solution: to destroy the evidence. 

That wasn’t you? Then good grief, there is a definite possibility you don’t know what an oxymoron is. 

Well, that went over like a lead balloon

Oxymorons and paradoxes and juxtapositions, oh my!

Is it an oxymoron? A paradox? Or perhaps a juxtaposition? Same difference. 

While these are closely related literary terms, they are not the same and have subtle differences.

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is all about placing two opposing things side by side to highlight their differences. It focuses on comparing and contrasting more so than contradicting.

  • Night and day
  • Good and evil
  • Black and white
  • David and Goliath 

Paradox

A paradox, like an oxymoron, is contradictory. A paradoxical statement is self-contradictory, which may seem false but when logically examined proves to be true. 

  • The only thing I know is that I know nothing 
  • This statement is false
  • It is the beginning of the end
  • “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” (Animal Farm by George Orwell)

Where an oxymoron uses contradicting words, a paradox uses contradicting ideas. Paradoxes force us to stop and think to uncover the inherent truth. 

Oxymoron

While not the same, an oxymoron is both a type of juxtaposition and a type of paradox. An oxymoron takes opposing elements and purposely contradicts them. While the longer, more complex paradoxes are meant to be pondered and explored, an oxymoron is like a condensed paradox meant to be enjoyed in the moment and moved along.

  • Concrete jungle
  • Even odds
  • Deafening silence
  • Clearly misunderstood

Even the word oxymoron is an oxymoron. Coming from the Greek words “oksús” (keen) and “mōros” (stupid), the word literally means keen idiot

Oxymorons as titles

If you’re looking for a catchy, interesting title to hook your readers, oxymorons are a great way to do just that. Using one in a title adds instant intrigue to draw a reader in, wanting to know more. 

Many famous books, movies, and songs incorporate oxymorons into their titles. These contradictory elements act as an invitation to learn more about the story’s delicious complexities. 

Oxymoron examples in book titles

  • Midnight Sun (Twilight Series #5) by Stephanie Meyer
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 
  • The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis
  • Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah 
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 

Oxymoron examples in movie and TV titles

  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • Back to the Future (1985)
  • True Lies (1994)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  • She’s the Man (2006)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  • Inside Out (2015)
  • Resident Alien (2021-present)

Oxymoron examples in song titles

  • “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles
  • “Hello Goodbye” by The Beatles
  • “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Deadman Walking” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve 
  • “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele 

Famous oxymoron examples in literature

There are plenty of serious (and seriously funny) oxymorons woven into classic and modern literature. 

William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

  • “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

One of the most well-known oxymoron examples comes from Juliet’s famous line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The literary device works in this case to describe the duality of the character’s feelings. Sorrow for having to leave, yet sweet thinking about reuniting again. 

  • “O brawling love! O loving hate!”

This oxymoronic outburst by Romeo expresses his inner turmoil toward his unrequited love for Rosaline.

  • “A damned saint, an honorable villain!”

Juliet waivers in her view of Romeo not being entirely good or bad. 

  • Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!”

Romeo uses this series of several oxymorons to illustrate the devastating emotions he is feeling following his rejection by Rosaline.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

  • “I know this is a joyful trouble to you.”

Macduff uses this oxymoron to say that hosting King Duncan is both an honor and a pain. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

  • “Mr. Wolfsheim…began to eat with ferocious delicacy.” 

This oxymoron provides imagery to the scene as well as character description. 

Using oxymorons effectively in your writing

So far, we have looked at examples of oxymorons. Now let’s dive into the purpose this openly deceptive figurative language serves and why you might want to use it in your own writing.

Whether you are crafting a compelling personal narrative, clever copy, or persuasive argument, oxymorons are a versatile tool that can add flair, depth, and complexity to your work. 

Deeper meaning

Authors who use oxymorons choose these words wisely. They could have just said, “she is honest,” but they chose to say, “she is deceptively honest,” or “the classroom was organized chaos,” instead of simply, “the classroom was chaos.” Why?

Using contradictory terms side-by-side seems…contradictory, but what it really does is infuse a deeper meaning than either or both words being used separately. Oxymorons can either create a whole new meaning or point out that both can be true at the same time. Ever done a workout that hurt so good or cried happy tears? Both can be true.  

Dramatic effect

All oxymorons stand out, but a well-placed oxymoron can stop a reader in their tracks. They can add an air of mystery or suspense to leave a long-lasting impression. Saying “silent scream” creates a clearer, more ominous, and more memorable picture than simply saying “scream” or “shock.” 

Entertainment

In my unbiased opinion, wit is the best kind of humor, and oxymorons are a terribly good way to bring playfulness to a piece of writing. Just like it can be used to add tension, suspense, or mystery, a well-crafted, perfectly timed oxymoron can seamlessly provide comedic relief

Everyday oxymorons

We use oxymorons every day without even thinking about it. Here are some that you likely hear, say, or use regularly and may not have even noticed that they are oxymorons. 

  • Slumber party
  • Passive aggressive
  • Practical joke
  • Act natural 
  • Paper towel
  • Steel wool
  • White chocolate
  • Frozen hot chocolate
  • Liquid gas
  • Icy Hot
  • Old news
  • Rolling stop
  • Freezer burn
  • Fixed-rate variable
  • Numb feeling
  • Nonprofit business
  • Student teacher
  • Graduate student
  • Adult children
  • Foreign national
  • Paid volunteer
  • Live recording
  • Biggie Smalls
  • Doing nothing

Oxymorons will have your readers doing double takes.

With oxymorons, you can explore the duality of feelings and characters, create suspense, or make a properly ridiculous joke.

Try using some of these oxymoron examples to spice up your writing or add a bit of zest to your titles that will engage even the most intensely apathetic reader.

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