Oxymorons are the funny members of the literary devices family. A compound word or phrase consisting of two different words with opposite meanings is termed as an oxymoron. It enriches the English vocabulary. Writers use oxymorons to impart a hilarious touch to the literary texts, novels, etc. They are used to give a sense of irony, humour, or sarcasm to grab the reader’s attention.
1. Pretty Ugly
Decide whether it is pretty or ugly rather than confusing the person with ‘pretty ugly’. But is it the correct interpretation of this word? Pretty ugly defines the object/person as rather ugly. The single word ‘pretty’ here shows the extent of the quality of a particular thing or a person.
2. Civil War
The fans of The Avengers franchise will never forget the classic and jaw-breaking fight between the favourites: Captain America and Iron Man, but they might have missed this example of an oxymoron. Civil means discipline, whereas war is rampant. Together, ‘civil war’ means war between the citizens of the same country.
A ‘bittersweet’ love is an example of an oxymoron, which expresses love as painful and good. Here, ‘bittersweet’ represents two opposite feelings at once. It consists of two words ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet,’ contradictory in their meanings, which posses different tastes completely.
4. Random Choice
How can a decision be random if you are ‘choosing’ a particular solution? If you are choosing something, it is not random. You think about it and then move forward. Isn’t it confusing, and at the same time, engross you into thinking?
5. Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is a hit TV series and has attracted fans from around the world. But the title ‘Walking dead’ does qualify as an oxymoron. Walking and dead are two opposite sides of a single coin. Living things walk, not dead ones. Together they have a singular meaning of zombie-like creatures.
6. Open Secret
Secrets are not supposed to be said, they need to be concealed. That’s why they are called secrets. Who invented this concept of ‘open secret’? Bad idea! The ‘open secret’ is a secret known to many people.
7. Working Vacation
Vacations are for decluttering your mind and for relaxation. And people anticipate this chance to pack their bags and leave all the work stress behind. However, working vacation is when you work while on vacation. Mostly, freelancers or people who have second businesses utilize this time.
8. Act Naturally
When a film star says his acting is natural, it is difficult to digest what he said. He contradicts his statement, and he is unaware that he just used an oxymoron. Acting is a premeditative action that needs repeated rehearsals. Then how is it natural? Think!
The individual words are the two extremes of the human body. When brought together, it forms a different meaning completely. It is a general word used to address a stupid or stubborn person. People address their friends comically by this word which adds a new level.
10. Dark Light
How could it be so easy for a word to exist differently yet the same at once? Here, dark light means little or no light. But their meanings say otherwise. These are usual and common words found in many texts. Be conscious next time when you are reading.
11. Free Trade
Trading involves spending money or a barter system, which means exchanging of goods in return for something you need. It is never free. But ‘free trade’ implies a different meaning. In economics, a ‘free trade’ is defined as a policy by which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports by applying tariffs (to imports) or subsidies (to exports).
12. Detailed Summary
When students are asked to write a summary of a text, they write an overview of the text. They are not expected to write in detail. These two terms ‘detailed’ and ‘summary’ present a contradictory meaning, but that one phrase shows a brief description.
13. Non-alcoholic Beer
As hilarious as it sounds, non-alcoholic beer contains less percentage of alcohol in it. If we consider its literal meaning, the name contradicts itself. In general, beer contains alcohol in it, and non-alcoholic means minimum or no alcohol.
This word combines tragedy and comedy. In a play, tragedy signifies distress, suffering, or catastrophe and comedy is entertainment that makes people laugh. Tragicomedy blends both the elements in literature. Shakespeare and Aristotle are prominent writers who used tragicomedy in their plays.
15. Doing Nothing
When a friend asks “what are you doing?”, and you reply “doing nothing”, you are using an oxymoron. This is a common word used by the population, yet they do not realize that they are using a literary device. ‘Doing’ and ‘nothing’ are two opposite terms.