Oxymorons

Oxymorons

Oxymorons (oximoros) are opposite or contradictory words that go together. Let’s take a look at some common examples of oxymorons in English. 

fast asleep

How can you be fast if you are asleep? This oxymoron means that you are sleeping deeply. 

Example: The baby is fast asleep in her crib. 

bittersweet

The term “bittersweet” is frequently used in reference to moments that are painful yet have some aspect that is pleasant. This may be the bittersweet memories of someone who has passed away or the bittersweet feeling you get when your first child moves out of the house or goes off to college.

Example: It was a bittersweet moment as she kissed her daughter and sent her off to school for the first time.

crash landing

The term “crash” refers to a vehicle accident that is disastrous and often harmful. The car crash on the highway has traffic backed up for miles. On the other hand, the word “landing” or the verb form “land” is typically used to refer to an aircraft safely arriving at its destination, touching down on the ground in one piece. The airplane landed at 8:34 p.m. The oxymoron “crash landing” refers to an improper emergency landing somewhere in the middle between a successful landing and a devastating crash.

Example: The pilot had no choice but to perform a crash landing.

deafening silence

When we say that something is “deafening”, it means that it is so loud that you could lose your hearing. “Silence” is the absence of sound. So how does that work? We use the term “deafening silence” to portray the concept of a silence so intense that it causes mental agony. This term is most often used to describe tense or awkward situations.

Example: My parents haven’t been speaking for over a week. The silence in that house is deafening. 

living dead

So you’re either living or you’re dead. There is no in between. However, we use this term to refer to the fictitious characters, zombies.

Example: The world was taken over by the living dead.

jumbo shrimp

The word “jumbo” refers to something very large. Shrimp are known for being very small. If you call someone a “shrimp”, you are saying that they are tiny. When you buy shrimp, however, they come in various sizes – small, medium, large, extra large, jumbo, and colossal. Even the colossal size is small compared to a lobster, but it all depends on one’s perspective.

Example: I’ll have an order of the jumbo shrimp, please!

old news

When you share news with someone, read a newspaper, or watch the news on TV, you are receiving NEW information. “Old news” means the information is something you already knew about.

Example: Everyone already knows she is pregnant. That’s old news.

original copy

Original means it’s the only one or the first one. A copy is a duplication of a piece of work. An original copy refers to the first, authentic work that has since been duplicated.

Examples: We will need the original copy of you birth certificate in order to process your passport.

Somehow she got her hands on the original copy of Romeo and Juliet. It must be worth a fortune!

pretty ugly

Pretty, used as an adjective, means attractive, and ugly means unattractive. In English, we often use “pretty” as an adverb to mean “quite” or “rather”. 

Example: That sweater is pretty ugly.

random order

These two words are opposites. Used alone, you can say that something is random – that was a random thought – OR that it has order – Line up in alphabetical order. When used together it carries the same meaning as just using “random”. The order is random.

Example: Marsha arranged the flowers in a random order.

seriously funny

Are you scratching your head? This one is similar to “pretty ugly”. Although “serious” and “funny” are opposites, when you put them together, “seriously” means “really”.

Example: That meme was seriously funny! You should check it out!

awfully good

Once again, this oxymoron is similar to “seriously funny” and “pretty ugly”. “Awfully” used as an adverb means “really”. In English, we like to use adjectives that have a negative meaning and turn them into adverbs that add emphasis to a positive meaning. Another adverb that means the same is “terribly.”

Example: I can’t believe that flights are only $99 right now! That’s an awfully good deal!

blacklight

Well, black is the absence of light so…. 

A blacklight is a special kind of light that emits UV-A rays (it looks purple). It illuminates things that contain fluorescents, like stains, and it makes things that are white really glow in the dark. Just a friendly piece of advice, never use one in a hotel room. 

Example: The investigators brought in a blacklight to the crime scene to see if they could gather any evidence. 

happy accident

Accidents are not typically happy events, but sometimes we get some unintentional good luck. We would refer to that as a happy accident.

Example: Running into my biological mom after all these years was such a happy accident!

act naturally

If you are acting, you are not being natural. Acting is pretending to do something or be somebody that you are not. English speakers typically tell someone to “act naturally” when they know some information that they don’t want someone else to know about. For example, a surprise birthday party or someone’s plans to propose.

Example: He’s coming! Act naturally!

dry rain

Have you ever seen dry rain? This weather phenomenon occurs when rain evaporates before reaching the ground. By the way, there is a movie called Dry Rain.

Example: No way! I’ve never seen dry rain before!

mercy killing

Showing someone mercy means to spare them from something bad, even if they deserve it. Typically this means being spared from a consequence or death. The oxymoron “mercy killing” refers to putting someone out of their misery. In medical practices, this is called “euthanasia.” When referring to animals, we usually use the phrasal verb ” to put down” We had to put our dog down last week. 

Example: The injured soldier had no chance of surviving and was in such a great deal of pain that he asked his fellow soldier to perform a mercy killing.

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