Breaking Down Oxymoron
Oxymoron (literally, the “sense” in the masquerade of “folly”), is a collocation of two or more logically contradictory terms in a sentence, that literally correspond with one another in sense, such as:
- “A coward dies often, a brave man but once”
- “He is a living death” (said of a man in a consumption, or of a malefactor under condemnation.)
- “An idiot or a madman is his own grave”
Oxymoron also consists in how the afflictions of a righteous man may be termed, in accordance to the blessed notion in which the Scripture signifies them:
- “salutary wounds”
- “healthful diseases”
- “happy pains”
- “profitable losses”
- “bitter sweets,” and
- “exalting absements”
Oxymoron may be regarded as a sub-set of paradoxOpens in new window, which encompasses a broader spectrum of logically contradictory terms.
The term is first recorded as latinized Greek oxymōrum, in Maurus Servius HonoratusOpens in new window (c. AD 400); it is derived from the Greek ὀξύς oksús “sharp, keen, pointed” and μωρόςmōros “dull, stupid, foolish”; as it were,
- “sharp-dull”, “keenly stupid”, or “pointedly foolish”.
Hence, the word oxymoron is autologicalOpens in new window, i.e. it is itself a signification of an Oxymoron.
(Here, Glory and shame seem so contradictory; but it is the highest honour to be used with indignity for the cause of Christ and his testimony.)
Oxymoron as a rhetorical figure is quite essential and yet so delicate; if judiciously employed, may prove a resilient and superior genius, that can permeate the midst of dangers, and land securely, in its own strength, on the very edge of a precipice.
This figure may fill the minds of an audience with pleasing surprise, charm them with novelty, and raise a great idea of the talents of the orator; while they find upon reflection, that what at first appeared contradictory is admirably meaningful, and see it breaking out in its force and beauty, even from an expression or sentence, which they for a moment were ready to condemn as foolish and absurd.