Posts Tagged ‘oxymorons’

On Redundancy, Oxymora, and Grammatical Correctness

November 19, 2011

It would be redundant to say that Dave was “completely devastated” when his hamster died because there cannot be degrees of devastation. I can be extremely scared by radio reports of zombies in my neighborhood, but it would be inexact to say that I am extremely terrified. Conversely, it would be oxymoronic* to declare that Dave was only “slightly devastated” by the news of his hamster’s untimely demise.

For the poet (by which I also of course mean the novelist) the phrases completely devastated and slightly devastated have all sorts of wonderful possibilities. However, writers seeking precision with their words (students enrolled in a Freshman Composition class, for example) should avoid such phrases.

* George Carlin has helpful lists of redundancies and oxymora in his book Braindroppings

Evaluation

State whether the highlighted portions of the following sentences are redundant, oxymoronic, or grammatically acceptable.

1. I was a tad heartbroken when my wife left me for my younger brother.

2. My aunt is a little bit pregnant.

3. Dresden was totally incinerated by the Allied bombing.

4. Pizza is extremely overrated.

5. My cat was completely dead after the accident.

6. Gertrude was a little bit exhausted after studying six straight hours for her English exam.

7. Osvaldo was completely miserable after he lost the tiddlywinks tournament.

8. The traffic around here is somewhat slow after jai alai matches.

9. Pham was extremely furious when I told her the results from Dancing with the Stars.

10. Ted overdosed slightly on pain medication.

by Richard W. Bray