Regardless of the label, oxymorons attract attention. People who like to pepper their conversations with these literary devices are well aware that their listeners will stop and think, wondering whether they should laugh or not.
Perhaps, the most famous oxymoron is the expression “same difference.” Two words with completely opposite meanings come together to produce a verbally puzzling, but intriguing effect.
Other common oxymorons include jumbo shrimp, cruel to be kind, random order, open secret, act naturally, and passive aggressive.
Some well-known quotations also make use of oxymorons.
- “I can resist anything, except temptation.” Oscar Wilde
- He is the only honest thief.” Charles Lamb
- I am a deeply superficial person.” Andy Warhol
I enjoy collecting oxymorons and using them in my writing and general conversation. Some of my favorite and less well-known oxymorons include planned spontaneity, controlled chaos, clean dirt, and pontificatory salvos.
When Collette Cameron, author of Highlander’s Hope, described her writing style, she referred to herself as a “linear pantster.” While most writers will classify themselves as either plotters or pantsters, Collette admits that she likes to plan but loves unexpected twists and characters who misbehave.
Jac Wright’s latest book is entitled The Reckless Engineer. Intrigued by this unlikely and potentially dangerous oxymoron, I am looking forward to reading about an engineer with a very messy love life.
The title of Catherine Castle’s book, The Nun and the Narc, does not technically qualify as an oxymoron, but it certainly captured the attention of many chat participants.
Any other unusual oxymorons out there?