Friday, November 9, 2012

The Grammar Guru explains Oxymorons

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that’s designed to link opposites. Some of them are so much a part of everyday speech we don’t even notice how ridiculous the phrase is until we stop and think, like “deafening silence”, “paid volunteer”, “sweet sorrow”.

Think about it for a moment. A volunteer is someone who freely donates their time. Once they’re paid they are a worker. They may be an employee, or a casual worker, or a day laborer. But the one thing they are not, is a volunteer.

Some oxymorons are just people getting lazy about language. “Found missing”. If it’s found, it’s no longer missing. Or do you mean you discovered that it was missing? “Working holiday”. Are you working or are you on holiday? Is this a business trip or a vacation?

Some oxymorons were titles or names given in all seriousness, but because of what has happened since then they’re now considered an oxymoron: military intelligence, civil servant, advanced basic.

Some more examples of lazy language are “exact estimate” or “almost exactly”. Come on people, did you guess, or do you know?

“Plastic glasses” and “freezer burn” are examples of how language has changed over time. Glasses are often no longer made of glass, and it is quite possible to burn food by inaccurate freezing.

Check your writing. Are the words you’re using just common usage or are you being sloppy, lazy or inaccurate?

Or my “only choice”, my “mandatory option”, may be to delete some “pretty ugly” writing when it’s “even odds” you’ll leave your reader “clearly confused”.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

1 comment:

anny cook said...

Coooool. I must go check.