Posts Tagged ‘oxymoron’

Oxymorons are intriguing

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Here is a note that I received recently from a professional colleague.

One set of word usages that I have found confusing for non-English speakers (and even for English speakers if they think about what they are saying)  is the use of “pretty” and “awful” as adverbs.  We sometimes say something is pretty bad or pretty good.  Someone can be pretty sorry or pretty smart .  Similarly something could be awful bad or awful good or I could be awfully sorry or awfully smart. I think pretty bad is not as bad as awful bad, but is pretty smart better or worse than awfully smart?   Even more interesting is something could be pretty awful or awfully pretty—and these are really different.

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Oxymorons: a good source of smiles

Monday, June 20th, 2011

The word oxymoron is itself an oxymoron. It is derived from the Greek words oxy (meaning sharp) and moros (meaning dull). English is full of seemingly contradictory words that, used together, can make sense in certain contexts. For example, our business is undergoing constant change. Constant change? Constant means not changing. Change means not constant.
Oxymorons are generally useful. Although they appear to be somewhat contradictory, they tend to have meaningful connotations that express a unique aspect of some subject. My book Eureka! contains a list of my favorite oxymorons, but there are many more. If you have a favorite, please contribute it on my website or post a comment here.