Thursday, October 3, 2019

Oxymoron: Meaning and Examples

OXYMORON (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

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

* The plural of oxymoron is oxymorons or oxymora.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech.  It is used as a rhetorical or a literary device to create humour or satire or irony.  It usually consists of one or two words which seemingly contradict each other, yet appear next to each other.  It is interesting to note that the word "oxymoron" is in itself contradictory.  The word is derived from two ancient Greek words, oxys, meaning "sharp" and moronos, meaning "dull" or "stupid."

There is a difference between an "oxymoron" and a "paradox."  A paradox consists of a statement or a group of statements, while an oxymoron consists of two contradictory terms.  Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as "something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible." - Example:  In a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it.

List of oxymorons

absolutely unsure
accidentally on purpuse
agree to disagree
almost exactly
alone in a crowd
alone together
awfully nice
civil war
clearly confused
confirmed rumour
cruel kindness
deafening silence
found missing
growing smaller
jumbo shrimp
lead balloon
liquid gas
minor crisis
new classic
old news
only choice
open secret
original copy
plastic silverware
pretty ugly
small crowd
working vacation

List of satirical oxymorons

Satirical oxymorons are composed of words that are not inherently contradictory but express the opinion that the two do not go together.

airline schedules
American culture
business ethics
just war
maternity fashion
military intelligence
political leadership


"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English writer, poet and academic
From The Lord of the Rings


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave; it is a loose misapplication of the word.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Eruption; Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) edited by Bernard DeVoto

- Joanne

Monday, September 23, 2019

Vocabulary Quiz #4 (Phobias)

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #4

Ten Phobias

PHOBIA (noun): an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation

The word "phobia" comes from the Greek word phobos, meaning fear or horror

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz on phobias.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  technophobia (noun)

A.  Fear or dislike of the internet and social media

B.  Fear or dislike of computer nerds and information technicians

C.  Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

D.  Fear or dislike of computer viruses

E.  Fear or dislike of excessive email

2.  hydrophobia (noun)

A.  A morbid dread of being electrocuted

B.  A morbid fear of thunder and lightning

C.  A morbid fear of hydro poles

D.  A morbid dread of water

E.  A morbid fear of freezing

3.  triskaidekaphobia (noun)

A.  Fear of the number three

B.  Fear of the number 13

C.  Fear of the number 30

D,  Fear of the "Three of Spades"

E.  Fear of Thursday

4.  panophobia (noun)

A.  A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear

B.  A fear of forests and trees

C.  A fear of darkness

D.  A morbid fear of being lost or abandoned

E.  A fear of loud voices

5.  nomophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of famous people

B.  Fear of  public speaking

C.  Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

D.  Fear of security guards and police officers

E.  Fear of very tall people

6.  pyrophobia (noun)

A.  Morbid dread of pirates

B.  Morbid dread of funerals

C.  Morbid dread of torches

D,  Morbid dread of swords

E.  Morbid dread of fire

7.  photophobia (noun)

A.  Intolerance to light

B.  Fear of cameras

C.  Aversion to having one's picture taken

D.  Fear of selfies

E.  Fear of darkness

8.  ophidiophobia (noun)

A.  Abnormal fear of birds

B.  Abnormal fear of bees and wasps

C.  Abnormal fear of snails

D.  Abnormal fear of snakes

E.   Abnormal fear of jelly fish

9.  amathophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of foreign languages

B.  Fear of mold and mildew

C.  Fear of mathematics

D.  Fear of dirty laundry

E.  Fear of dust

10.  cynophobia (noun)

A.  Pathological fear or loathing of drums and drumming

B.  Pathological fear or loathing of dogs

C.  Pathological fear or loathing of the colour red

D.  Pathological fear or loathing of cymbals

E.   Pathological fear or loathing of chipmunks

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  C
techophobia (noun): Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

2.  D
hyrophobia (noun): A morbid dread of water, also known as "aquaphobia"

3.  B
triskaidekaphopia (noun): fear of the number 13

4.  A
panophobia (noun): A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear - the fear of everything or that something terrible will happen

5.  C
nomophobia (noun): Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

6.  E
pyrophobia (noun): Morbid dread of fire

7.  A
photophobia (noun):  Intolerance to light, especially pain sensitiveness to strong light

8.  D
ophidiophobia (noun):  Abnormal fear of snakes as in "The fear of snakes, called ophidiophobia, is a common phobia."

9.  E
amathophobia (noun): Fear of dust, derived from the Greek word amathos meaning sand

10. B
 cynophobia (noun): pathological fear or loathing of dogs as in "If a person were bitten by a dog, the experience could lead to cynophobia."

- Joanne

Thursday, September 12, 2019

When to use "every day" and "everyday?"

Sly and the Family Stone

Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I'm in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah . . . 

- Lyrics from the song "Everyday People"
By Sly Stone

Back in 1969, Sly and the Family Stone had a big hit with the song "Everyday People."  They proclaimed loudly that they were part of the whole of humanity.  In reference to the song title, "everyday" is single word and an adjective.  It modifies a noun, and it is used to describe something as normal and commonplace.  "Everyday" people are ordinary people.  Your ordinary routine is your "everyday routine."

Does that mean that "everyday" as a single word is always correct?  No, it does not.  "Every day" (two words) is a noun phrase, consisting of the adjective "every" PLUS a noun "day." as in "The athlete runs every day between 10 and 11 a.m."  "Every day" provides information about time.
When it describes time, it usually appears at the beginning or end of a clause.

So, what is a quick way to remember whether to use "every day" or "everyday?"  Well, keep in mind that "every day" is synonymous with "each day."  If you can replace "each day" with "every day" and it makes sense, then you are on the right track.  If it doesn't look right, then use "everyday."

Here are some sentences in which "everyday" and "every day" are used correctly.

I get up early in the morning and jog.  That is my everyday routine.

I eat a healthy breakfast every day.

Those are just my everyday shoes.  I don't wear them on special occasions.

That's an everyday occurrence in our house. (meaning "daily")

Every day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. (meaning "each day")

Note: A hyphen between "every" and "day" should not be used.

Literary Quote of the Day

From:  The Scarlet Letter

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), American novelist and short story writer
Published: 1850 
Nathaniel Hawthorne

- Joanne

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Fun with words: Malapropisms are amusing

Definition of malapropism from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

malapropism (noun): the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase especially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context 

Example of a malapropism: "Don't is a contraption." (rather than "a contraction")

According to teacher Gay Miller of North Carolina on the website Book Units Teacher: Educational Material for Upper Elementary, the definition of "malapropism" has been clarified.  A malapropism must contain the following three features:

1.  The new word replacing the original must have a different meaning.

2.  The substituted word must have a similar sound to the original word.

3.  The word must be recognized in the speaker's native language.

Origin of malapropism

The word comes from a character named Mrs. Malaprop in the play The Rivals (1775) by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), an Irish satirist, playwright and poet.  Mrs. Malaprop is a humorous aunt who becomes involved in the schemes and dreams of young lovers.  Throughout the play, she.  uses incorrect words to express herself.  Mrs. Malaprop's name is derived from the French term malapros, meaning "inappropriate."  The popularity of The Rivals led to the creation of the literary term "malapropism," meaning the use of an incorrect word, whether by accident or design, that sounds similar to the appropriate word.  The character committing the malapropism is usually somewhat silly or uneducated.

Richard Brimsley Sheridan

Here are some examples of Mrs. Malaprop's malapropisms:

". . . promise to forget this fellow. - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory." (obliterate)

". . . she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile." (alligator)

"He is the very pine-apple of politeness." (pinnacle)

". . . behold this very day, I have interceded another letter from the fellow." (intercepted)

Malapropism is also referred to as Dogberryism, after the constable Dogberry, a comical character in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  In the play, he is the leader of a group of bumbling police watchmen and he frequently uses malapropisms.  For example  Dogberry says, "Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons."  He means to say "apprehended two suspicious persons."

Below is a depiction of Dogberry by English artist Henry Stacy Marks.(1829-1898).

Other examples of malapropisms:

"For all intensive purposes" instead of "For all intense and purposes"

"Texas has a lot of electrical votes," - Attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra.(1925-2015)
(Although Yogi is given credit for many errors of the English language, he is also credited with many remarks that he never uttered.  He allegedly made the comment about Texas to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who was running for president and was throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game (Yogi was then a coach for the Astros).  According to the story, Bush told Berra  that Texas is very important. and Berra replied, "I know, Texas has a lot of electrical votes," mistaking "electrical" for "electoral."  However, this conversation was never recorded in the Houston Chronicle or in any other newspaper.  The accuracy of the quotation remains uncertain and unverified).

Yogi is credited with the following malapropisms:

"He hits from both sides of the plate.  He's amphibious," rather than "ambidextrous."

"Take it with a grin of salt," rather than "grain of salt."

"He had to use a fire distinguisher," instead of "extinguisher."

"He's a wolf in cheap clothing," rather than "sheep's clothing."

"My friend has extra-century perception," rather than "extra-sensory perception."

"I need five more to make my quotation for the month," instead of "quota."

"Michelangelo painted the Sixteenth Chapel," instead of "Sistine Chapel."

"My brother takes me for granite," rather than "takes me for granted."

"Isn't that an expensive pendulum around that woman's neck?" rather than "expensive pendant around that woman's neck."

"Jesus healed the leopards," rather than "lepers."

"The doctor administered the anecdote," rather than "antidote."

"The computer was invested with viruses," rather than "infested with viruses."

Here is a selection of malapropisms from George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States

"We are making steadfast progress," instead of "steady progress."

"It will take time to restore chaos and order," rather than "law and order."

"The law I sign today directs new funds . . . to the task of collecting vital intelligence . . . on weapons of mass production," rather than 'weapons of mass destruction."

In the 1933 film, Sons of the Desert, comedian Stan Laurel refers to a "nervous shakedown," rather than "nervous breakdown."  He also calls "the exalted ruler, "the exhausted ruler." 

Oliver Hardy (left) and Stan Laurel in "Sons of the Desert"

Archie Bunker, as played by Carroll O'Connor, on TV's All in the Family, was in the habit of using malapropisms.  Here are some sample's of Archie's way with words:

An "ivory shower" (rather than an ivory tower)

A house of "ill refute" (rather than ill repute)

A "pig's eye" (rather than a pig sty)

"Nectarines of he god" (rather than nectar of the gods)

- Joanne