Six oxymorons

Military intelligence - a satirical oxymoron

Here’s a new category of list I’m introducing to this site, quick lists with an activity idea. The first one is about oxymorons.

An oxymoron is an expression that contains words with opposite meanings (not an insult referring to a stupid person, which is what I thought it was back in elementary school). Here is a list of six oxymorons and a teaching idea for a five-minute vocabulary activity.

1. Bittersweet – as in “the final exam was a bittersweet experience”

2. Same difference – as in “English teacher salaries, borderline poverty… same difference!”

3. Final draft – as in “the final draft of your work is due March 20”

4. Controlled chaos – as in “her class tended to be an exercise in controlled chaos”

5. Appear invisible – as in “if you look at the window from this angle, it appears invisible”

6. Open secret – as in “it’s an open secret that he was having a romantic affair with his teacher”

There are other kinds of expressions which are referred to as oxymorons to achieve a humorous effect. One famous one is military intelligence, while another recently apt one is business ethics.

One activity I did with my students was to write all the words jumbled up on the board. I explained “oxymoron” and then asked them to find the oxymorons by putting the words together. They were allowed to use dictionaries. As a follow up they had to find examples on the internet. They then had to create their own example situations which incorporate the oxymoron. A fun five-minute filler!

Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Five minutes? That would take my lot the best part of a week!

    As my contribution to the oxymoron collection, please accept this one, derived from hard experience, keen observation, and a touch of religious knowledge – “Three wise men from the East”.

  2. And then there’s “TEFL career”, I suppose!

  3. This week I went to a Mexican restaurant with a couple of students and I couldn’t help but notice the “Hot Chilli Burrito”.
    Even my students found it weird.
    Here’s my favorite ones – “holy crap”, “we’re alone”, and “unknown identity”.

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