Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Sense of Oxymorons: A Writing Prompt

I received one of those obnoxious chain mails filled with clip art and Comic Sans font in seven colors and eight sizes. I’d been forwarded this one in particular several times because it purports to contain oxymorons. Of course is contains nothing of the kind but I (mostly) appreciate that people think of me when they see jokes about the English language.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an oxymoron is a phrase that contradicts itself. I’ve most often heard “military intelligence” cited as an example but I find that to be unkind to the gents who actually do sneaky things for the armed forces and who often show some scary smarts.

I’ve been sitting here attempting to create an oxymoron of my own and for some reason I now want to open a coffee shop called The Speedy Turtle. I seem to recall reading an article about the fastest sloth as well. But I was having trouble thinking of a really good example.

Then I thought about the example given in my dictionary of “legal murder”, which took me in two directions: right back to military intelligence and to the Wild West and the idea of a deputized outlaw. Could you have a gentle bully or a terrifying bunny (Monty Python notwithstanding)?

And so I thought that might make an interesting writing exercise: pair two contradictory terms and write a story to explain how both apply to a character. I don’t expect you to post results here, of course, but if you do write something based on the idea I’d love a link. If you’ve got a good example of an oxymoron please do share.




i love reading your posts. i think you are very witty. funny. keep on keeping on. :)



Thank you! It's very sweet of you to say so. I hope you'll keep enjoying them as much as I enjoy writing them.



I am glad I found your blog, and I will be returning to catch up on things.

But, I have a question. It has to do with what I am hearing a lot on television and even among (hope that's right), News Personnel. I hate it when I hear people say myself (often). Instead of saying Mark and I, or, Follow Bill, Jan, and me to the party. Or, "I," But still, some person is always saying Ted, Fred, and Myself, or worse, Myself, Ted, and Fred went to the party. Why do people do that? I know you don't know. I was just venting that part.

I remember my grad school teacher saying, it is rare that you will ever have the opportunity to say myself in a sentence. So, don't. If you do, it' means you're stupid!

Was my teacher wrong? Oh, my goodness, I hope not.