oxymoron

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See also: Oxymoron and oxymóron

English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

First attested in the 17th century, noun use of 5th century Latin oxymōrum (adj), neut. nom. form of oxymōrus (adj),[1] from Ancient Greek ὀξύμωρος (oxúmōros), compound of ὀξύς (oxús, sharp, keen, pointed)[2] (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōrós, dull, stupid, foolish)[3] (English moron (stupid person)). Literally "sharp-dull", "keen-stupid", or "pointed-foolish"[4] – itself an oxymoron, hence autological; compare sophomore (literally wise fool), influenced by similar analysis. The compound form ὀξύμωρον (oxúmōron) is not found in the extant Ancient Greek sources.[5]

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɒksɪˈmɔːɹɒn/
  • (US) enPR: äk-sē-môrʹ-än, äk-sĭ-môrʹ-än, IPA(key): /ˌɑksiˈmɔɹɑn/, /ɑksɪˈmɔɹɑn/
  • (file)

Noun[edit]

oxymoron (plural oxymorons or oxymora)

  1. A figure of speech in which two words or phrases with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect.
    • John Sinclair (1996), "Culture and Trade: Some Theoretical and Practical Considerations", in Emile G. McAnany, Kenton T. Wilkinson (eds.), Mass Media and Free Trade: NAFTA and the Cultural Industries, University of Texas Press
      For Theodore Adorno and his colleagues at the Frankfurt School who coined the term, "culture industry" was an oxymoron, intended to set up a critical contrast between the exploitative, repetitive mode of industrial mass production under capitalism and the associations of transformative power and aesthetico-moral transcendence that the concept of culture carried in the 1940s, when it still meant "high" culture.
  2. (loosely, sometimes proscribed) A contradiction in terms.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Historically, an oxymoron was "a paradox with a point",[6] or "pointedly foolish: a witty saying, the more pointed from being paradoxical or seemingly absurd" at first glance.[4] Its deliberate purpose was to underscore a point or to draw attention to a concealed point. The common vernacular use of oxymoron as simply a contradiction in terms is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, and is perhaps best avoided in certain contexts.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ oxymōrus in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  2. ^ ὀξύς in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  3. ^ μωρός in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  4. 4.0 4.1 ὀξύμωρος in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  5. ^ OED
  6. ^ Jebb, Sir Richard (1900). Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part III: The Antigone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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