This post is the reaction to something I heard earlier in the day, where I heard someone refer to themselves as ‘oxymoronic’ in order to show that they have two contradicting personalities in a single shell. Never in any single moment before this time have I wondered about how some words have begun to mean entirely different things in common usage and are often confused and misused as a consequence.
First off, let us begin with the etymology of the word ‘oxymoron’. It derives from Greek, like many famous words do, and is used to denote something that is ‘pointedly foolish’. Oxys translates to sharp, and moros translates to stupid. If I were to believe dictionary.com. I would rather not think about it.
I get the general picture. I really do. It is considered cool to project oneself as a congruence of opposite ideas that fit in well together to form a different effect. I also enjoy deafening silences, have open secrets and love using a few of the superb ‘oxymoron’ elements in my speech. But never, in my living memory, have I referred to myself with that particular term.
No one can master the English language, not even the native speakers. But the second half of the word must give one the clue before they attempt to use it in everyday speech, especially in reference to self and other people. I was more surprised by the definition I heard after I expressed my confusion. That definition is what prompted this post. (So a small thanks, maybe?)
I had to translate and paraphrase the original response, which was given, to my relief in my mother tongue.
“I am an oxymoron… You know… I am sadly happy, unfortunately lucky… and so on… like a paradox, a conundrum…”
So if there is happiness, why is it sad? What is there to be sad about being happy? Don’t we use ‘sadly’ to express our disappointment or grief over something that did not quite go the way it should have? So the happiness was a sad occurrence? And what is unfortunate in being lucky? I was left with so many questions, none with any answer in sight.
Being lucky means having that extra happiness where things work in favour of the bearer of the luck, no matter what the outcome actually is. What is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What is one man’s misfortune is another man’s windfall. But, there is little meaning in referring to the self as unfortunately lucky. One cannot be both at the same time.
There is a very thin line of difference between understanding the actual meaning of a word and believing that one has finally understood. Not every contradictory pair of words is an oxymoron, and a human or any intelligent being cannot be oxymoronic. Some confusing statements are best left unexplained, as I realized a few hours ago.
Today’s lessons learnt?
- To master the language better. English is confusing indeed.
- To understand the difference between an oxymoron, a paradox, and a conundrum, all of which, I heard today, as adjectives that referred to a person.
I am getting there, surely. One day, I shall use them all in a single sentence, and make it sound right.
P.S.: So… did I meet a self-contradictory eccentric enigma today?