Oxymorons rarely become trite, for their components, linked forcibly, repulse each other and oppose repeated use. There are few colloquial oxymorons, all of them showing a high degree of the speaker's emotional involvement in the situation, as in "damn nice", "awfully pretty".
Exercise VIII. In the following sentences pay attention to the structure and semantics of oxymorons. Also indicate which of their members conveys the individually viewed feature of the object and which one reflects its generally accepted characteristic:
1. He caught a ride home to the crowded loneliness of the barracks. (J.)
2. Sprinting towards the elevator he felt amazed at his own cowardly courage. (G. M.)
3. They were a bloody miserable lot - the miserablest lot of men I ever saw. But they were good to me. Bloody good. (J. St.)
4. He behaved pretty busily to Jan. (D. C.)
5. Well might he perceive the hanging of her hair in fairest quantity in locks, some curled and some as if it were forgotten, with such a careless care and an art so hiding art that it seemed she would lay them for a pattern. (Ph. S.)
6. There were some bookcases of superbly unreadable books. (E.W.)
7. Absorbed as we were in the pleasures of travel - and I in my modest pride at being the only examinee to cause a commotion - we were over the old Bridge. (W.G.)
8. "Heaven must be the hell of a place. Nothing but repentant sinners up there, isn't it?" (Sh. D.)
9. Harriet turned back across the dim garden. The lightless light looked down from the night sky. (I.M.)
10. Sara was a menace and a tonic, my best enemy; Rozzie was a disease, my worst friend. (J. Car.)
11. It was an open secret that Ray had been ripping his father-in-law off. (D.U.)
12. A neon sign reads "Welcome to Reno - the biggest little town in the world." (A. M.)
13. Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield are Good Bad Boys of American literature. (V.)
14. Haven't we here the young middle-aged woman who cannot quite compete with the paid models in the fashion magazine but who yet catches our eye? (Jn. H.)
15. Their bitter-sweet union did not last long. (A. C.)
16. He was sure the whites could detect his adoring hatred of them. (Wr.)
17. You have got two beautiful bad examples for parents. (Sc.F.)
18. He opened up a wooden garage. The doors creaked. The garage was full of nothing. (R.Ch.)
19. She was a damned nice woman, too. (H.)
20. A very likeable young man with a pleasantly ugly face. (A. C.)
ASSIGNMENTS FOR SELF-CONTROL
1. What is an oxymoron and what meanings are foregrounded in its formation?
2. Why are there comparatively few trite oxymorons and where are they mainly used?
3. Give some examples of trite oxymorons.
After you had learnt individual lexical stylistic devices and the linguistic mechanism which operates in each of them, we may pass on to the general stylistic analysis on the lexical level. Your main task is to indicate how and through what lexical means additional logical, emotive, expressive information is created. In many cases you will see a number of lexical units used in convergence to still more enhance the expressiveness and emphasis of the utterance.
Exercise IX. Pay attention to the stylistic function of various lexical expressive means used individually and in convergence:
1. Constantinople is noisy, hot, hilly, dirty and beautiful. It is packed with uniforms and rumors. (H.)
2. At Archie Schwert's party the fifteenth Marquess of Vanburgh, Earl Vanburgh de Brendon, Baron Brendon, Lord of the Five Isles and Hereditary Grand Falconer to the Kingdom of Connaught, said to the eighth Earl of Balcairn, Viscount Erdinge, Baron Cairn of Balcairn, Red Knight of Lancaster, Count of the Holy Roman Empire and Chenonceaux Herald to the Duchy of Aquitaine, "Hullo," he said. "Isn't it a repulsive party? What are you going to say about it?" for they were both of them as it happened, gossip writers for the daily papers, (E. W.)
3. Across the street a bingo parlour was going full blast; the voice of the hot dog merchant split the dusk like an axe. The big blue blared down the street. (R.Ch.)
4. Lester was all alone. He listened to his steps, as if they weren't his at all but somebody else's. How long can a guy stand this without going nuts? Wattinger has been a good boy but it got him and he was blown to smithereens; they say they'd seen his arm sailing through the air; higher and higher, an arm alone rising to meet God. He wondered whether, up there, they'd accept an arm in place of the whole man. His soul couldn't possibly have been in the arm; it was in your heart or in your guts or in your bram but not in your arm. (St H )
5. For me the work of Gertrude Stein consists in a rebuilding, an entire new recasting of life, in the city of words. Here is one artist who has been able to accept ridicule, to go live among the little housekeeping words, the swaggering bullying street-comer words, the honest working, money-saving words, and all the other forgotten and neglected citizens of the sacred and half forgotten city. (Sh. A.)
6. Only a couple of the remaining fighters began to attack the bombers On they all came, slowly getting larger. The tiny mosquitoes dipped and swirled and dived in a mad, whirling dance around the heavier, stolid horseflies, who nevertheless kept serenely and sedately on. (J.)
7 "I guess," said Mr. Hiram Fish sotto voce to himself and the world at large, "that this has been a great little old week." (Ch.)
8. The good ships Law and Equity, those teak-built, copper-bottomed iron-fastened, brazen-faced, ard not by any means fast-sailing Clippers, are laid up in ordinary. (D.)
9 An enormous grand piano grinned savagely at the curtains as if it would grab them, given the chance. (W.G1.)
10. Duffy was face to face with the margin of mistery where all our calculations collapse, where the stream of time dwindles into the sands of eternity, where the formula fails in the test-tube, where chaos and old night hold sway and we hear the laughter in the ether dream. (R.W.)
11. Mrs. Ape watched them benignly, then squaring her shoulders and looking (except that she had really no beard to speak of) every inch a sailor strode resolutely forrad to the first-class bar. (E.W.)
12. The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
13. On that little pond the leaves floated in peace and praised Heaven with their hues, the sunlight haunting over them. (G.)
14. From the throats of the ragged black men, as they trotted up and down the landing-stage, strange haunting notes. Words were caught up, tossed about, held in the throat. Word-lovers, sound-lovers - the blacks seemed to hold a tone in some warm place, under their led tongues perhaps. Their thick lips were walls under which the tone hid. (Sh. A.)
15. It was a relief not to have to machete my way through a jungle of what-are-you-talking-aboutery before I could get at him. (J. A.)
16. Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice,
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say thatfor destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
17. Outside the narrow street fumed, the sidewalks swarmed with fat stomachs. (J.R.)
18. The owner, now at the wheel, was the essence of decent self-satisfaction; a baldish, largish, level-eyed man, rugged of neck but sleek and round of face - face like the back of a spoon bowl. (S.L.)
19. His fingertips seemed to caress the wheel as he nursed it over the dark winding roads at a mere whispering sixty. (L. Ch.)
20. We plunged in and out of sun and shadow-pools, and joy, a glad-to-be-alive exhilaration, jolted through me like a jigger of nitrogen. (T.C )
21. They were both wearing hats like nothing on earth, which bobbed and nodded as they spoke. (E.W.)
22. These jingling toys in his pocket were of eternal importance like baseball or Republican Party. (S.L.)
23. He might almost have been some other man dreaming recurrently that he was an electrical engineer. On the other side of the edge, waiting for him to peer into it late at night or whenever he was alone and the show of work had stopped, was illimitable unpopulated darkness, a greenland night; and only his continuing heart beats kept him from disappearing into it. Moving along this edge, doing whatever the day demanded, or the night offered, grimly observant (for he was not without fortitude), he noticed much that has escaped him before. He found he was attending a comedy, a show that would have been very funny indeed if there had been life outside the theatre instead of darkness and dissolution. (P.)