Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 9, 2019 is:
oxymoron • ahk-sih-MOR-ahn • noun
: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness); broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements
“Truly antisocial celebrity-level pop is probably an oxymoron, but part of the thrill of one new arrival, Billie Eilish, is that she gets close to achieving it.” — Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 10 May 2019
“‘Liquid crystal’ ought to be an oxymoron, but technology has rendered it sensible instead. A crystal is by definition a solid with a repeating, orderly, three-dimensional lattice. Liquid crystals are electrically activated to become quasi-crystals that act as polarizing filters. The wave nature of light manifests as oscillating electric and magnetic fields that wave like a rope tied to a post as it is shaken.” — Richard Brill, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 20 Oct. 2019
Did you know?
The Greeks exhaustively classified the elements of rhetoric, or effective speech and writing, and gave the name oxymoron—literally “pointed foolishness”—to the deliberate juxtaposing of seemingly contradictory words. The roots of oxymoron, oxys meaning “sharp” or “keen,” and mōros meaning “foolish,” are nearly antonyms themselves, making oxymoron nicely self-descriptive. Oxymoron originally applied to a meaningful paradox condensed into a couple of words, as in “precious bane,” “lonely crowd,” or “sweet sorrow.” Today, however, what is commonly cited as an oxymoron is often simply a curiosity of language, where one or both elements have multiple meanings (shrimp in “jumbo shrimp” doesn’t mean “small”; it refers to a sea creature), or a phrase whose elements seem antithetical in spirit, such as “classic rock.”