Some time ago I was told that a real oxymoron consists of an adjective and noun where the noun has at least two meanings and one of them is antithetical to the adjective. For example, jumbo shrimp. Honest politician does not qualify. Does any one have anything on this? The dictionaries I consulted do not make that distinction.

An oxymoron need not be an adjective and noun. My source on this sort of thing is Silva Rhetoricæ, which has the following under “oxymoron” examples:

noun + noun “The sound of silence”
verb + adverb “Make haste slowly”

So, does “Microsoft Works” qualify as an oxymoron? :D:D

Military intelligence :smiley:

Nice Guy.

postal service

(and “BOO” to the nice guy crack :wink:

I don’t think those last four qualify because the words don’t actually have an opposing definition in common. One of the words merely has a connotation ( which seems to always be negative ) that opposes a definition of the other word.

old news
civil war
pretty ugly
inside out
small fortune
a dull roar
growing smaller
voice mail
half naked
working vacation
idiot savant
student teacher
standard deviation
criminal justice
divorce court
constructive criticism
random order
war games
business ethics
safe sex :smiley:
educational television
Amtrak schedule :smiley:

From what I was told, none of the above qualifies as one word does not have a double meaning which is opposite the other word, such as “jumbo shrimp.” I used noun and adjective, but that not need be the case. However, one word must have a double meaning. Is this true or false? Does anyone know?


American Heritage Dictionary: “A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist.”

Merriam-Webster’s: “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness)”

Encarta: expression with contradictory words: a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect, for example, “wise fool” or “legal murder”
[Mid-17th century. From Greek oxumron , a substantival use of the neuter singular of oxumros “pointedly foolish,” from oxus “sharp” (source of English oxygen) + mros “foolish” (source of English moron).]

So apparently neither of the words has to have a double meaning.

Yep, the word “oxymoron” is an oxymoron.

The definition given at this site makes no mention of criteria for “real” oxymora.

Also, many of the ones in my list and in prior posters’ posts were deliberately tongue-in-cheek.

marijuana initiative

Top 50 Oxymorons
> 50. Act naturally
> 49. Found missing
> 48. Resident alien
> 47. Advanced BASIC
> 46. Genuine imitation
> 45. Airline food
> 44. Good grief
> 43. Same difference
> 42 Almost exactly
> 41. Government organization
> 40. Sanitary landfill
> 39. Alone together
> 38. Legally drunk
> 37. Silent scream
> 36. British fashion
> 35. Living dead
> 34. Small crowd
> 33. Business ethics
> 32. Soft rock
> 31. Government workers
> 30. Military intelligence
> 29. Software documentation
> 28. New York culture
> 27. Extinct life
> 26. Sweet sorrow
> 25. Childproof
> 24. “Now, then…”
> 23. Synthetic natural gas
> 22. Christian scientists
> 21. Passive aggression
> 20. Taped live
> 19. Clearly misunderstood
> 18. Peace force
> 17. New classic
> 16. Temporary tax increase
> 15. French bravery
> 14. Plastic glasses
> 13. Terribly pleased
> 12. Computer security
> 11. Political science
> 10. Tight slacks
> 9. Definite maybe
> 8. Pretty ugly
> 7. Twelve-ounce pound cake
> 6. Diet ice cream
> 5. Rap music
> 4. Working vacation
> 3. Exact estimate
> 2. Religious tolerance
> And the NUMBER ONE top OXY-Moron
> 1. Microsoft Works

Long Island Expressway

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