Tutoring English 12, both these terms come up. As an academic who loves ideas, the tutor offers his explanation of each.
Paradox and oxymoron are literary devices. Identifying them can be worth marks on the English 12 government exam. So, what are they?
A paradox is a statement that poses two contradictory facts, yet somehow it’s all true. An example might be
He’s a very outgoing recluse.
If someone is outgoing, why would they live like a recluse? Yet, so many people meet that description: they love conversing with people, but rarely go out into the world. Glenn Gould, the famous Canadian pianist, was known to be so.
She’s so late, she’s early.
Anyone who’s ridden buses that come an hour apart, but missed one, knows this situation.
An oxymoron is a seemingly opposite description that still makes sense. An example:
Touching the ice, he felt the burning cold in his hands.
Anyone who’s had a really cold hand knows that it can feel like it’s burning. The body has a weak distinction between the two sensations in such a case, so that one can resemble the other.
One more oxymoron:
The proposal was met with deafening silence.
“Deafening” means “loud”, of course; yet, silence can be just as numbing as loud noise in some cases.
To wrap up: a paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that somehow is still true. An oxymoron is a description that seems impossible because the adjective contradicts the essence of the noun – yet, intuitively, the description rings true.
Whichever impossibility you face or witness, might it be described as a paradox or with an oxymoron? We all struggle daily with facts that seem incredible:)
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.