Sunday, 14 February 2016


I had to pick up these gems and pebbles from what was called by some body 'the battlefield of Panipat', but I thought it was worth attempting it. It started with an interesting statement "I am within you but not you". This was termed as 'Oxymoron'. It was commented as "Synecdoche, I thought, would be a better fit." 

I had never heard any of these words, so went searching their meanings. I am already having problem in differentiating between commonly used simple words paradox, irony and contradiction. These figures of speech were new additions to my vocabulary.

As per the dictionary, An oxymoron (usual plural oxymorons, less commonly the Latin-style oxymora) is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Oxymorons appear in a variety of contexts, including inadvertent errors (such as "ground pilot") and literary oxymorons crafted to reveal a paradox.

A synecdoche (/sɪˈnɛkdəkiː/, si-NEK-də-kee; from Greek συνεκδοχή synekdoche, meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something, or vice versa.
Kiran Dixit gave some information on term "Oxymoron"

Meaning: A figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

A few common examples in daily use:  Brief details, Accurate estimate, Final draft, Original copies, Ballpoint, Once again, Solo concert, Assistant Chief (Manager or Engineer) etc. (One may add more examples) and off course INCOME TAX

There are many examples in Literature. Below is an extract from the play " Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare

“Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?”
Ravinder Mago explained:
Oxymoron: a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.” Rhetorical oxymora (e.g., “bipartisan cooperation” or “business ethics“), on the other hand, are expressions composed of words that are not inherently mutually exclusive but express an opinion that the two cannot occur together, usually for satirical intent.

SOME EXAMPLES ( starting with A )

A just war
A little big
A new classic
absolutely unsure
abundant poverty
accurate estimate
accurate stereotype
acrophobic mountain climber
Act Naturally
active retirement


A.K.Malik added:

The dictionary defines an 'oxymoron' as a combination of contradictory terms. For instance, a 'sensitive boss' would be an oxymoron! Here's our pick of the best ones ever heard or used.

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. Butt Head
30. Military Intelligence
29. Software documentation
28. New York culture
27. New classic
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. Extinct Life
16. Temporary tax increase
15. Computer jock
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
1. Microsoft works
Another addition: A strong Rumour.
Another example :
The only thing that is permanent in this material world is " CHANGE " .

Ravi Rustagi added
In Hindi a similar term- Virodhabhas Alankar- Not contradictory, yet looks contradictory. Examples-
Jameen Aasman जमीन आसमान
Main Nadiya, Phir Bhi Main Pyaasi मै नदिया फिर भी मै प्यासी
Dipak Tale Andhera दीपक तले अंधेरा

As this blog is on the word Oxymoron, the context of its origin is immaterial and ignored. However, a poetic comment is reproduced after a bit of editing.

"At one end we root for net neutrality, the right to access any point of view, and yet even in this closed circuit, we wish to censor.
I like the wit that prevails,
the diverse points of view
the creative chaos it generates
the mental agility
the praise and criticism
that's life
lets not enter our coffins,
before we are put in them."

Another comment was "A (nice family) group is formed by inviting people and now there is a talk (or need) of censoring their comments."

Another exchange of interesting conversation:
"To agree is becoming a Default mode in this group. Let us honour this positive approach at home too."
"After retirement, we all agree to each other. If all of us would have agreed, this much during our workplace,  certainly it would have been better."

A very interesting and thought provoking response from Shri Mohan Rao:

I am really amazed at the number of responses received on the subject of oxy-morons and they still keep coming. It seems to have caught the fancy of the people in our community.

I tend to think that the oxy-morons have their root in a certain kind of mismatch between the brain (or mind) that provides the thoughts for the speech and the flow of speech itself. It is somewhat akin to the synchronizing of the turbine system to the grid. We used to play around with this on the simulator. When the two are out of phase and you try to connect, the turbine system trips. It takes a little practice to synchronize the two watching the synchro-meter and when they fully get in phase, bingo, you can lock in the turbine to the grid, no problem. May be a poor analogy, but it now excites me to think that way.

When we talk, the speech has its own rate, and without timely input from the brain, we tend to stutter (it was one of my problems in childhood), or fill the gap with ‘ahem’s, ‘aah’s and ‘ooh’s, or some such thing. Alternately, speech may also use some quick fixes or near-alternatives to fill the gap, which although   may meet the immediate need, turn out like a stale joke afterwards at best.

Oxy-morons have power nonetheless on what we say and what we do. One example that comes to mind is the word ‘safe’ that is used ubiquitously when we talk about nuclear systems. For example, we had the word ‘safe disposal’ for long term management of spent fuel or high level waste underground repositories.
The word fell into disrepute when people started pointing out the ‘oxymoron’ in that scientists can never be sure about waste being safe when we have to manage these wastes over thousands to millions of years. Some in the business later changed the word from ‘safe disposal’ to ‘permanent storage’ and then several switched to ‘continued monitored storage’. In fact that is where we are at after 50 years of R&D, which is still in progress. Nuclear power plants store their spent fuel at their own sites in pools or concrete casks. awaiting R&D, site studies, public acceptance etc.

I started surfing the web to find if  there is a solid psychological or other explanation for the oxy-morons. I came across some that point to procrastination on the part of the brain to be the reason for oxy-morons.  If true, the solution seems to be to have all the answers ready before we open our mouth. In hindsight, I think that is what got me into introspection when someone pointed out an oxymoron in one of my mails on the web that seems to have started the chain of ‘oxy-morons’ on the web.

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