Okay, time to step back from all the heavy stuff for a moment. Today, I’m gonna send out a call to end one of those irritating little practices that just happens to bug the hell out of me: The rampant misuse of the word “oxymoron.”

Yes, I’m a linguistic purist. But that doesn’t change the fact that almost every time I see someone use the word, it’s used incorrectly. Oxymoron does not mean the same thing as “contradiction in terms.” An oxymoron is a construct in which a modifier which would normally contradict that which it modifies is used in a manner that actually does modify the word correctly. For example, “thunderous silence”; as in a silence so sudden or profound that it creates the same impression as a sudden clap of thunder. Or “cruel kindness”; kind actions that are harmful in net effect.

“White House intelligence,” “creation science,” “compassionate conservatism,” and “business ethics” are not oxymorons. They are contradictions in terms — constructs that actually contradict themselves. Unfortunately, people who remember learning the word “oxymoron” back in elementary school seem to think it sounds better — even though, by using it incorrectly, they only demonstrate that they really weren’t paying all that much attention back then. (For a more detailed — but less angry — explanation, see the Wikipedia entry on the topic.)

Okay, I’m done. I just wanted to show that I can rant about something other than politics for a change (though I couldn’t resist just a little jab there).


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home