Oxymoron: Figure that binds together TWO words that are ordinarily contradictory; a TWO WORD paradox; two words with contrary or apparently contradictory meanings occurring next to each other, and, which, nonetheless, evoke some measure of truth; the figure conjures a new way of seeing or understanding, a novel meaning.

Ex: "[T]here is not under our Constitution a judicial remedy for every political mischief, for every undesirable exercise of legislative power...In this situation...appeal must be to an informed, civically militant electorate. In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives."

-- Justice Felix Frankfurter, Baker v. Carr, dissenting

Further Examples

"...And it is important that the Iraqi people continue to reject these terrorists, who know nothing but violence and destruction, who do not care about the future of Iraq, who do not care about the future of the Iraqi people. These cold acts of terrorism like this have gone on far too long. Together, we can put a stop to this, and we must throw these heartless zealots out of this country for good."

-- Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno, 07/26/07 Press Briefing

Note 1: A zealot may be many things -- "dauntless" "stainless," "mindless," even "bathless" -- but not heartless. The word "zealot" is closely related to the word "zeal," a notion that typically entails radical ideology wedded to fervent emotional commitment. A zealot especially may not be characterized or even faulted for a lack of "heart," as this aspect is embedded within the very definition of the term. Lieutenant General Odierno likely means that these zealots don't care about the havoc they wreak upon the peace-desiring citizens of Iraq. The sentiment is entirely understandable. However, these zealots do care, care enough, in fact, to commit the very acts for which they are being charged as "heartless." What zealots can be faulted for is having a heart in the wrong place. In this case, Iraq may well have no place for this particular brand of zealotry.

Note 2: Odierno makes effective use of anaphora. Can you spot it?

Well, now that my socks are out there, I've got nothing to lose, right? You know, this moment right here, it's -- it's unbelievably believable. You know, it's unbelievable because in the moment, we're all amazed when great things happen. But it's believable because, you know, great things don't happen without hard work.

-- Robert Griffin III, 2011 Heisman Trophy Acceptance Address

Robert Griffin III Wins Heisman Trophy_2

"Safe sex -- now there's an oxymoron. That's like 'tactical Nuke' or 'adult male.'"

-- delivered by Tim Curry (from the movie Lover's Knot)

"We did something that is really considered a medical miracle. They're calling it a miracle -- and that was the vaccine. We got the vaccine developed in nine months instead of nine years or five years or 10 years or a long time. It was supposed to take a long time many, many years to develop a vaccine. We have two out. We have another one coming almost immediately. And it really is a great achievement. So you should start to see really good numbers over the next few months. I think you're going to see those numbers really skyrocket downward."

-- Donald J. Trump, Presidential Departure Ceremony Address

"As a nation that is a part of shaky isles, who has volcanoes, who experiences extreme weather events, earthquakes -- we are a nation who prepares, and we did. We came in and got ourselves in an economic position where our debt was lower that when we inherited it, and we did that just in case we had a rainy day, and, Mr. Speaker, it is here. This package is significant: 12.1 billion dollars represents, as the Minister of Finance has said, the equivalent of roughly three Budgets' operational allowances. We pulled it together in a short space of time, but we did give it a critique, a lens of people -- what will give the maximum support we can to try and keep people in work as businesses look to reorientate, to prepare, and to focus on what the future will hold, and what will be a new normal for New Zealand."

-- Jacinda Ardern, Statement to Parliament on Economic Response to COVID-19


Rhetorical Figures in Sound

Online Speech Bank

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American Rhetoric.
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