What’s an Oxymoron?

rogersgeorge on August 29th, 2016

“Oxymoron” is derived from the Greek words for sharp and foolish. It’s a word for an expression that appears at first glance to be self-contradictory. People like to use them to make humorous sarcastic remarks. Here’s a comic from 2014 that uses a bunch of them. The protagonist is a lady doctor and the duck is her (imaginary?) mentor. It’s a nice strip, especially if you like the convoluted pathways of medical careers. It’s written by a real MD, even. Go to the site to see its unusual name.

Everybody likes oxymorons. Do you have a favorite? Mine happens to be the last one in the strip—it catches you off guard.

PS—In my email exchange with the writer of this strip, he asked to be told when I was going to post it, so I did. I got this email in reply:

It’s quite a coincidence. I was working on the layout of a new book and I had just included that oxymoron comic strip into it and remembered your request! Then I get this E-mail!
It’s quite a coincidence. I was working on the layout of a new book and I had just included that oxymoron comic strip into it and remembered your request! Then I get this E-mail! I’m currently crowdfunding the printing of this book. If you’re interested, I could really use the help! http://igg.me/at/callous20years.
Awesome news about it finally coming up on your site! I’ll be sure to mention it as well. 🙂

So there you go! I recommend you follow his link if you like nice comics. I did, and got a hard copy of the book.

PPS—Wouldn’t you know, after two years I post a comic about oxymorons, and then today I ran into another one! The comic is named Shoe.
Shoe
The comments are full of suggestions for more oxymorons, some sure to offend.

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What would you say?

rogersgeorge on December 10th, 2013

Here’s a fairly funny comic. What’s going on grammatically here?

shoe would

Shoe, March 2012

I suppose if you have to explain a joke, it’s not as funny, but the actual humor, I think, is a play on the stereotype of women being concerned about looking fat, and men’s defensiveness about it. But what about the grammar?

The waitress’ intent is to ask a question with a metaphorical verb (“say” meaning “have the opinion”) and a predicate adjective. This is easier to see if we put in the relative pronoun.

Would you say that I’m fat?

Even that invites a defensive reply about whether Loon would take the verb literally and would he  say anything, “No, I wouldn’t even bring the subject up.”

(Here’s a lesson in expository writing: say exactly what you mean. She really is asking, “Do you think that I’m fat?”)

Loon’s defense, though, is to interpret the question as the imperative of “to say” and as containing an object phrase, hence his reply.

I remember two other jokes that rely on similar misinterpretations.

A guy walks into a soda fountain being tended by a jini. He says, “Make me a chocolate malt.” The jini goes “Alakazam! You are a chocolate malt!” Object  and predicate nominative  ambiguity.

And in grade school back in the fifties this joke ran around. You tell an unsuspecting kid, “Say ‘black eyes’ backwards.”  The thoughtless response of “Ise black” would stimulate gales of laughter. Kids quickly caught on, though, and soon the reply was, “Black eyes backwards.” and they’d make their own laughter.

I’ll let you analyze that last one yourself.

Postscript: It’s about a month after I posted this. Today I ran into a comic that uses this same grammatical misunderstanding. It’s from the Luann comic strip for Dec 22, 2007. Luann is one of few strips that make me regularly laugh out loud.