Yes, "oxymora" is plural for "oxymoron," but if you want to spell or say "oxymorons," be my guest. An oxymoron is always made either of two seemingly contradictory words (Athletic Scholarship) or a single, self-contradictory compound word (Monopoly, which means "single many"). If you find a complete sentence or longer phrase that seems oxymoronic, ("Back to the Future," for example) it's not an oxymoron; it's a paradox, which is explained on another page. ("Past Future" would be an oxymoron; "Future ahead" and "Past behind" would be redundancies.)
The oxymora that we find on their own, rather than in a context of, say, a poem, are unified pairs of words. We're all familiar with "jumbo shrimp," for example. We have a self-contained, two-word contradiction. Shrimp are shrimpy; how can they be "jumbo"? But we enjoy puzzling over these word pairs, even when we realize that some shrimp are larger than others, and it's logical for the larger ones to be considered "jumbo" by comparison to the "normal" ones. And that's the other fun thing about oxymora: While they have a paradoxical element, that paradox can be resolved, usually (certainly not always) by understanding that one word in the pair is a pun. "Anxious patient" is a good example. These two words seem contradictory because one cannot be "nervously calm." When we realize that "patient" need not refer to a state of mind, but to a person, then the tenuous contradictory element dissipates. In the four columns below are some of the more popular oxymora that you'll find floating around the internet. Read them over and have fun. Then below the list of oxymora is a poem that makes extensive use of oxymora; see how many you can identify.
Usually, an oxymoron lifted from the context of a poem seems a bit lame by comparison to any in the list above, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps you can figure it out after you read "Love's First Kiss at Parting" by Robert Burns (1759-1795) below:
Love's First Kiss at Parting
Humid seal of soft affections,
Tenderest pledge of future bliss,
Dearest tie of young connections,
Love's first snowdrop, virgin kiss!
Speaking silence, dumb confession,
Passion's birth and infant's play.
Dove-like fondness, chaste concession,
Glowing dawn on future day!
Sorrowing joy, adieu's last action,
(Lingering lips must now disjoin);
What words can ever speak affection
So thrilling and sincere as thine?
Answers: "Humid seal" (line 1) "snowdrop" (line 4) "virgin kiss" (line 4) "Speaking silence" (line 5) "dumb confession" (line 5) "chaste concession" (line 7) "Sorrowing joy" (line 9) Note, also, that the two oxymora in line 5 are, themselves, self contradictory.
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