Oxymoron or Paradox ?

Deep down, he’s shallow.

Oxymoron or Paradox?  Here are the two definitions. Dictionary.com defines an oxymoron as “a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in ‘cruel kindness’ or ‘to make haste slowly’.” It defines paradox as “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth”.  From what I get from these definitiions, an oxymoron is a phrase while a paradox is a sentence.   The following seem more like paradoxes to me, but they all are from a compilation book called “Oxymoronica” by Dr. Mardy Grothe. There are hundreds more of these oxymorons / paradoxes in the book.

Two from the master.

    I can resist everything but temptation.

      Oscar Wilde

    I love acting. It is so much more real than life.

      Oscar Wilde

Now one from my favorite movie director

Don’t be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also.
Billy Wilder

And one from my favorite actress

Just be truthful – If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
Barbara Stanwyck

Another from a great comedienne.

Comedy is tragedy plus time.
Carol Burnett

Here are some ancient paradoxes.

    Please all, and you will please none.
    Aesop – 6th century BC
    It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.
    Aeschylus – 5 th century BC
    Nothing is permanent, except change.
    Heraclitus – 4th century BC
    Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.
    The Bible – Luke 6:26
    As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.
    Julius Ceasar – 1st century AD
    Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
    Confucious – 6th century BC

Here are some oxymoronic insults.

    I learned an awful lot from him by doing the opposite.
    Howard Hawkes on Cecil B. De Mille
    He’s the kind of guy that can brighten a room by leaving it.
    Milton Berle

A couple literary oxymorons.

    The only way to not think about money is to have a great deal of it.
    Edith Wharton – ‘The House of Mirth’
    She usually liked everyone most when they weren’t there.
    Elizabeth Von Arnim – ‘’The Enchanted April’

Finally, a line we all can use in our reviews

    If it were better, it wouldn’t be as good.
    Brendan Gill

8 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for this, very droll!


  2. Thanks, Lisa, happy you liked it.


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AnokaTony. AnokaTony said: Deep down, He's Shallow. Oxymoron or Paradox? http://bit.ly/cag480 […]


  4. Sorry for the late comment. I was out of town last week and barely got to do anything that wasn’t involved with my reason for being away. Love this post, though like you I probably would have said paradox. I tend to use paradox, as you say when I am talking about something larger than just a couple of words … I wonder if you could call an Oxymoron paradoxical, but not vice versa?


  5. […] rage of a placid cow”. (A wonderful oxymoron that reminded me of Tony’s recent post on the subject) and gradually, but with continued difficulty, the man is […]


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  7. Posted by Paul Armstrong on September 13, 2012 at 2:20 AM

    it’s not really anonymous. Author Peter de Vries coined it in one of his novels. the female protagonist in the novel in response to a description (“He’s deep.”) of an admired man but whom we suspect of being a phony replied, (i paraphrase) “only on the surface. Deep down he’s shallow.” Another gem from this novel, in describing a man marrying for the fifth time, “He’s just not the marrying type.” Peter de Vries was brilliant and I highly reccommend him. One more from Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, in response to her (not the same protagonist as above) husband’s crisis of faith where he decries, “Eating God! What could be more barbaric?” she replies, “At least you have all your teeth.”


  8. Hi Paul Armstrong,
    I agree, Peter de Vries was a wonderful humorous writer. I’ve read several of his novels and ‘Slouching Towards Kalamazoo’ is an excellent title. Thanks for the info that he came up with the line “Deep down he’s shallow’. It does sound like De Vries who loved to play with words. It might be time for a Peter de Vries revival.


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