I Hope This Blog Doesn’t Go Down Like a Lead Balloon
“Oxymorons” have been used since the heyday of Greek poetry, The Greco-Roman Period.
They are a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory concepts are smashed together, and a literary device that describes those contradictory bits of life, like a bittersweet moment.
Even the plays and poetry of Shakespeare are smattered with “oxymorons.” They have also been featured in such well-received works as For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway and political commentary.
“Oxymorons” truly are a fascinating and poetic literary device. The author, Richard Watson Todd, said, “The true beauty of oxymorons is that, unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English.”
Here are a few examples of commonly used “oxymorons.”
Unsurprisingly, the word “oxymoron” is oxymoronic, contradictory. “Oxymoron” comes from two ancient Greek words: oxys, meaning “sharp,” and moronos, “dull.”
A euphemism, by definition, is the substitution of an inoffensive phrase for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. They are figures of speech that can be idioms or milder synonyms.
Euphemism, with its awkwardly placed diphthong, is pronounced \ˈyü-fəˌmi-zəm\, for those who are familiar with the phonetic alphabet. It’s one of the few English words that begin with eu.
Venus is au naturel
Speaking of euphemisms, you may be familiar with Sandro Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus”, and you may call the painting “a nude.” If you did so, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Yet, it’s important to recall that Western Civilization has roots in Puritanism, a belief that certain subjects are taboo to speak of and that certain phrases may evoke wanton thoughts. With this in mind, you may want to use the euphemism:
“Botticelli’s Venus is au naturel,”
When referring to the painting, it’s less provocative than using the words “naked” or “nude” in describing it.
Figures of Speech, like idioms, have evolved through usage, rather than the work of Lexicographers, those who decide what goes in the dictionary. But unlike idioms, the meaning of the Figures of Speech known as metaphors can be deduced through logic.
Figures of Speech fall into many categories, they can be similes, hyperbole and metaphors.
Metaphors, the language of poets, are Figure of Speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t exactly true.However, these untruths help to describe the object or actions by comparing them to something else. For example, you may hear a native English speaker say:
“Adam is a walking encyclopedia of music.”
Upon hearing this Metaphor, you would be correct to assume that Adam isn’t literally a collection of books that give information on many subjects. Adam is simply knowledgeable about music.
Figures of Speech arephrases that have a different meaning from their literal definition. These are somewhat like but differ from Idioms.
On one hand, a Figure of Speech is nonliteral and imaginative language but can be understood by someone who isn’t familiar with that particular Figure of Speech. On the other hand, it’s impossible to understand an idiom without being familiar with that particular idiom.
In general, Figures of Speech can be metaphors or similes but can fall into other categories as well. Figures of Speech are designed to make comparisons. This is achieved by devices such as alliteration (the repetition of certain sounds) or exaggeration, known as hyperbole. This creates a dramatic effect.
Alliteration in figurative language is fun. For example, you may hear a native English speaker say:
“I bought a box of bricks.”
The repetitive b sound makes the phrase have a nice ring to it. Not just is the saying alliteration, it’s hyperbolic.
Hyperbole, one of my favorite types of figurative speech, exaggerates an attribute of something, calling attention to it. In the above example, I didn’t literally buy “a box of bricks.” I bought a faulty product. I called the product “a box of bricks” because it didn’t work correctly. You, in your lifetime, have probably bought “a box of bricks” too, perhaps you purchased a faulty phone.
Here’s another example of hyperbole:
“Ophelia is my guardian angel.”
In reality, Ophelia isn’t a mythical creature. But she helps me when I’m in need, and so, I used this hyperbole when discussing her.