"It takes a heap of sense to write good nonsense."
-- Mark Twain
With little effort at all I can bypass a jewelry store, skip a clothing sale and resist the latest "do" for hair and nails. And when it comes to furniture, I'd rather indulge in fluffier pillows and an upholstery shampoo than mortgage my next year's income to buy a new couch. But get me anywhere near a new book with an intriguing title and my resistance melts like a double-decker cone on a hot summer day.
So, following my recent fall from economic grace, you're invited to settle back and -- I hope -- enjoy a synopsis of my latest literary frivolity: Dr. Mardy Grothe's Oxymoronica.
We're talking contradiction here, but on a deeper level than either oxymoron -- a contradiction in terms such as "jumbo shrimp"; or paradox, something that sounds false but turns out to be true. Oxymoronica, says the author of the word he coined himself, is a contradiction of ideas and a literary device that's been around ever since words and papyrus were introduced. From the ancients to the moderns, the following are some of my favorites from the 1,400 examples of oxymoronica Grothe includes in his little book.
Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad. (Victor Hugo)
Always remember you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else. (Margaret Mead)
I think people who go to a psychiatrist ought to have their heads examined. (Jane Ace)
Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair. (George Burns)
It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right. (Moliere)
A life of ease is a difficult pursuit. (William Cowper)
The end of the human race will (happen when) it eventually dies of civilization. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We make war that we may live in peace. (Aristotle)
Nobody believes a rumor in Washington until it's officially denied. (Edward Cheyfitz)
The true leader is always led. (Carl Jung)
No one has a finer command of language than the person who keeps his mouth shut. (Sam Rayburn)
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. (Tacitus, 2nd century AD)
The person who hurled the first insult instead of a rock made the first real step toward civilization. (Sigmund Freud)
Sometimes you have to be silent to be heard. (Stanislaw Lec)
Work is man's most natural form of relaxation. (Dagobert Runes)
Giving is true having. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy. (Djuna Barnes)
When I grow up I want to be a little boy. (Joseph Heller)
Too much freedom is its own kind of cage. (Patricia MacDonald)
I can give you a definite perhaps. (Samuel Goldwyn)
And in a final section on "inadvertent oxymoronica":
From church bulletins: The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals... The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
We find the man who stole the horse not guilty. (Jury foreman)
Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curve ball straightened out. (Joe Garagiola)
I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy. But that could change. (Dan Quayle)
If you would like to read the other 1,377 entries, this just-released book is available at all major bookstores. If you'd like to contribute to the author's second edition of the trivial sublime -- is there a bit of oxymoronica there? -- Grothe offers this Web site: www.oxymoronica.com, and an invitation to "come visit sometime."
(Barbara Seaborn is a sometimes oxymoronic freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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