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Want to transform lifeless speeches, scripts, poems, situations, dialogue, or settings, so they come alive in the mind of your readers and listeners?
Then you’ve come to the right place.
Oxymorons are one of the “seasonings” in great . Sprinkle in a few to evoke a laugh, a sense of wonder, drama, playfulness, and more.
And today, you’ll see exactly how this flavorful literary ingredient helps fold more flair and fun into any you write.
Here’s what we’ll explore:
- The definition of an
- The purpose of an
- How it differs from , irony, and juxtaposition.
- 67 oxymorons to make your sparkle.
Let’s get started.
What is an ?
An is a figure of in which are put together in an unexpected way.
Writers have used them for centuries as a to describe life’s oddities, conflicts, incongruities, heartbreak, and craziness. Whether in irony, or or , using words with oxymoronic can lend a sense of humor, sarcasm.
Oxymorons aren’t unique to the
The pairing of words with opposite meanings grabs attention, generates surprise, and creates an impression. Also, mastering the is an elegant way to weave clever wordplay into your .
An can be a or in one of these formats:
- Single- and Compound : Bittersweet, frenemy (friend+enemy), -hate.
- Adjective + : (made famous by Shakespeare), deliberate mistake.
- Adverb + Adjective/Adverb: Alone together (popular during the COVID pandemic), seriously funny.
- Freeform: Kill with kindness, new and improved.
Oxymorons and juxtapositions are both figures of .
Juxtaposition is about placing two things side by side to bring out their differences; it’s about comparing situations, ideas, emotions, characters, settings, and events.
A great is the movie, “Legally Blonde,” starring Reese Witherspoon.
She decides to go to Harvard Law School because she wants to win her boyfriend back. But she doesn’t look at all like the typical law student with her pink clothes, her Chihuahua, Bruiser, who goes with her everywhere in her tote bag, and her bright orange MacBook standing out against all the gray and silver laptops in the classroom.
An is a type of juxtaposition, just shorter and focused on two contradictory concepts. For , “sorority girl lawyer” might be an that summarizes the plot of “Legally Blond”.
is considered a “condensed” . can be figuratively true but not literally true.
Both are contradictions, but a is something you think about. In contrast, an is a description that’s enjoyed in the moment and then forgotten as the or listener moves on.
There are many great oxymorons out there, and more are discovered and invented every day. Here are 67 examples that we think you’ll .
of Oxymorons in Pop Culture
Modern pop culture works hard to attract the attention of the targeted viewer or in today’s flood of advertising. And because oxymorons provoke curiosity and interest, they make great titles for books, movies, and television.
- “True Lies”
- “You Only Live Twice
- “Eyes Wide Shut”
- “Dead Man Walking”
- “Back to the Future”
- Honest Illusions (Nora Roberts)
- The Worst Best Man (Mia Sosa)
- Big, Little Lies (Liane Moriarity)
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
- The Big Short (Michael Lewis)
Some of the longest-lasting oxymorons were generated by Shakespeare in his plays and are still widely used today.
But Shakespeare isn’t the only guru.
In fact, many modern authors are coming up with their own as well, for :
- (Shakespeare, 1597)
- (Origin unknown, first seen in print 1830)
- (Source unknown; to be “cruel to be kind” first in Hamlet c. 1601)
- Falsely true (Tennyson, 1862)
- Melancholy merriment (Byron, 1819)
- Scalding coolness (Hemingway, 1940)
- Terrible beauty (Yeats, 1916)
- Listen loudly (David Nour, 2017): Nour invented this . It drives home the point of developing an intense level of listening to customers, employees, and others.
Quotes & Sayings
These examples might help you use oxymorons to good effect in your .
- “And where did this insane notion of buying loyalty come from? It’s a in terms.”- Steven Erikson, Dust of Dreams
- When my boyfriend gave me a definite maybe about going out this Friday night, that was the last straw.
- As our team gathered for the staff meeting, the boss was conspicuously absent.
- James Bond approached the beautiful women he encountered in every assignment with cool passion.
- The politician gave his deceptively honest opinion.
- Trying to put a positive spin on the company’s financial status, the CFO talked about the negative growth in last quarter’s revenue.
- Now that many employees have shown high productivity working away from the office, will their bosses now expect them to take working vacations?
- The cop-show investig