What are your personal oxymorons? (Yeah, yeah, “oxymora” for you pedants out there)


[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

Reading another blogger’s post on irony and paradox, I was reminded of a particular type of paradox: the oxymoron.

An oxymoron is defined as “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction”. The most commonly cited example seems to be Tennyson’s “faith unfaithful kept him falsely true”.

Sometimes, however, phrases are labelled oxymoronic for humorous effect, the most well-known, perhaps, being “military intelligence”.

So in response to Robert Hruzek’s group writing project, “What I learned from laughter”, I’m taking a break from whinging about bad corporatese to present a light-hearted but highly revealing list of my personal oxymorons.

What did I learn? That I’m still an old curmudgeon. That – amazingly – I grew up to be the coolest kid in the class. That I like food more than I like children. And that I better not find myself with a black marker pen near any corporate art. Read on . . .

Skiing holiday
I’m sorry, but any holiday that requires you to spend most of your time a) cold and b) engaged in near-frictionless travel down a big slippy-slidey hill is not a holiday – it’s torture.

It’s particularly not a holiday when taken en masse, as so many skiing trips are these days. Being the only person in a large group of your peers who is rubbish at engaging in near-frictionless travel down a big slippy-slidey hill is just a cruel reminder of school sports. I guess at least this time round I have the option of spending all day sipping margaritas in the jacuzzi. (Hey, it turns out I was the cool one at school after all!)

Sports news
The content of your typical sports report is this: “Group of not-very-bright men kick round object into square object more times than other group of not-very-bright men”. And this is on the Today programme because . . . ?

Street art
If it’s in the street it’s not art – it’s graffiti.

That’s not an insult, by the way. Give me gloriously grubby Rome – where every other ancient monument sports some anarchist scrawl – over the sanitised streets of London, any day. Besides, by way of art, the latter are invariably decorated with anodyne works of corporate nonsense commissioned by some large developer as an unwanted gift to the local community in return for a shameless land grab.

(Yes, Land Securities, I am talking about that rubbish stripy panel you’ve put under the bridge at Blackfriars in London’s SE1. At what point did you not realise it looked like a carrier bag from Paul Smith? Or was this a deliberate attempt to attract high-end retail into those buildings of breathtakingly inhumane scale that you’ve thrown up nearby).

Child-friendly restaurant
If it’s child-friendly, it’s not a restaurant. It’s a nursery that happens to sell mediocre food. Unless you’re in Italy, of course, where all the children are restaurant friendly – i.e. they can sit still for the duration of a meal without crying when presented with garlicky stuff, food that still has a face attached to it, and tentacles that were still twitching only minutes before they hit the plate.

Folk music
I can’t say it better than one of my heroes: “There’s a reason folk music is so bad – it was written by the people.” Thank you, Tom Lehrer.

So, I’ve fessed up to my gripes and prejudices – what are your personal oxymorons?

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22 Responses to What are your personal oxymorons? (Yeah, yeah, “oxymora” for you pedants out there)

  1. Rob September 11, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    Surely the McSalad is the greatest oxymoron?

  2. Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    Rob – brilliant!

  3. Robin Dickinson September 11, 2009 at 9:04 am #

    Hi Clare,

    Looks like you had some fun writing this so I’ll join you…

    Two that are on my radar screen are:

    1) Social networking

    Social – two-way, friendly relations, companionship, sharing time together;

    Networking – wide distribution, one-way information memes, idea viruses.

    2) Personal branding

    Personal – individual, private, characteristic of a person/human;

    Branding – mark used to raise awareness of product/service to masses of people.

    There are many more.

    Best, Robin

  4. Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Robin – I love your suggestions, and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of them myself. I’d love to hear your others.

  5. Robin Dickinson September 11, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Hey Clare,

    I was just reading another self-help blog and thought of you,…

    Avoid Negativity

    Resist Negative thinking (that was Deepak Chopra!!!) 🙂

    I love self-help oxymorons!

    Best, Robin

  6. Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Ha, ha – I guess the best self-help, like the best astrology, is by nature self-contradictory so you can’t contradict it!

  7. Andy September 11, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Microsoft Works is a particular favourite of mine, for obvious reasons.

    • Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

      Love it. Mr GCBC would say the same. That said, four years’ worth of his music got eaten by a Snow Leopard yesterday, so his love affair with The Other One is fast losing its sheen.

  8. Dave September 11, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    So you wouldn’t be seen dead in a child-friendly alpine restaurant on folk open-mic night reading a copy of commercial property monthly? – sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  9. Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Indeed, Dave. Though that sounds marginally preferable to being forced to listen to the Today programme’s sports reporter interviewing some semi-literate footballer in the aggressive style of John Humphrys quizzing Alistair Darling about the UK deficit.

  10. Clare Lynch September 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm #

    Well, there’s nothing like a near-death experience to take your mind off work – I’ll give you that, Robert.

    Personally, I’d rather opt for voluntary open-heart surgery as my life-threatening activity of choice. At least I’d be under anaesthetic during the ordeal (hmm, sensing a theme with the margaritas there?)

  11. Dave September 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm #


    ‘Microsoft Works’ Fantastic! There it was staring me in the face every day and I didn’t spot it.

    also, advice to anyone with a mac out there – don’t install Snow Leopard until a couple of updates down the line. Unless you want to run the risk of losing 5 years’ worth of edited music and your entire iPhoto library.

  12. Peter Apps September 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    Thanks Clare, you brightened up my afternoon! One old favorite of mine that springs to mind is ‘an on-going situation’. What do others think?

  13. Chris September 11, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    Quick drink?
    Light lunch?
    Free gift?

    All lies.

  14. Robin Dickinson September 12, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    Clare, sorry, but I had to revisit…

    ‘Customer Service’

    ‘Valued Employee’

    ‘Company Vision’

    @dave – how about ‘Vista Ultimate’

    Best, Robin

  15. Dave September 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    @Robin – when they say ‘ultimate’ are they promising not to foist any more versions of their sub-standard operating system on the public?

  16. Brad Shorr September 12, 2009 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Clare, Excellent list, and I’m with you all the way on skiing holiday. Based on recent experience I’d have to add ATT Help Center to your list.

  17. Jackie Cameron September 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    I laughed out loud reading this – and the suggestions in the comments too – which is surely what Mr Hruzek hoped for when he set us this challenge!

    And then I laughed some more when I encountered your Anti – Spam Quiz…a first for me

    • Clare Lynch September 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jackie – delighted Mr Hruzek sent you over here.

  18. Clare Lynch September 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Peter – I had never thought of “on-going situation” like that, but now you’ve brought it to my attention every time I think of it, it sets my head spinning.

    Chris – I thought for a moment you were asking me for a date, but you’re right – lies, all.

    Robin – and we both missed out “corporate social responsibility”!

    Brad – sorry to hear about your ordeal, but, yes, a “help center” of any kind is surely up there with the best of them. Imagine if they played folk music while they put you on hold, eh?

  19. Rob McIvor January 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I’m joining this a little late, I know, but one that always irritates me is when I read that company X “has launched a NEW something or other”. As opposed to launching an OLD something or other.

    And, of course, there’s always Sports Personality…

  20. Rob McIvor January 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Oh yes, and I forgot Advance Warning

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