Oxymorons combine two opposite terms in a paradoxical manner. They are closely intertwined with antonymy, since the union of antonymous items creates the paradoxical effect of the oxymoron and generates a new meaning. Compared to other forms of figurative language, oxymorons are largely underinvestigated. We explored what makes good oxymorons through a crowdsourcing task in which we asked participants to judge the acceptability, comprehensibility, effectiveness (aptness), commonness, pleasantness, and humoristic connotation of Italian adjective-noun oxymorons. We hypothesized that oxymorons featuring morphologically related antonyms (felice infelicità 'happy unhappiness') may be perceived to be better than oxymorons featuring morphologically unrelated antonyms (felice tristezza 'happy sadness') and that oxymorons constructed by complementaries (esatta inesattezza 'exact inexactness') may be perceived to be better than oxymorons constructed by contraries (bella bruttezza 'beautiful ugliness'). The results confirmed only partially our hypotheses: oxymorons with complementaries were perceived as more acceptable, comprehensible, effective (apt), common, whereas no strong trend was found for the other two dimensions. Surprisingly, our analyses revealed that oxymoronic constructions containing morphologically unrelated words were perceived as more acceptable, comprehensible, effective (apt), common, pleasant, contradicting our initial expectations.

What makes an awfully good oxymoron?

Claudia Roberta Combei;
2024-01-01

Abstract

Oxymorons combine two opposite terms in a paradoxical manner. They are closely intertwined with antonymy, since the union of antonymous items creates the paradoxical effect of the oxymoron and generates a new meaning. Compared to other forms of figurative language, oxymorons are largely underinvestigated. We explored what makes good oxymorons through a crowdsourcing task in which we asked participants to judge the acceptability, comprehensibility, effectiveness (aptness), commonness, pleasantness, and humoristic connotation of Italian adjective-noun oxymorons. We hypothesized that oxymorons featuring morphologically related antonyms (felice infelicità 'happy unhappiness') may be perceived to be better than oxymorons featuring morphologically unrelated antonyms (felice tristezza 'happy sadness') and that oxymorons constructed by complementaries (esatta inesattezza 'exact inexactness') may be perceived to be better than oxymorons constructed by contraries (bella bruttezza 'beautiful ugliness'). The results confirmed only partially our hypotheses: oxymorons with complementaries were perceived as more acceptable, comprehensible, effective (apt), common, whereas no strong trend was found for the other two dimensions. Surprisingly, our analyses revealed that oxymoronic constructions containing morphologically unrelated words were perceived as more acceptable, comprehensible, effective (apt), common, pleasant, contradicting our initial expectations.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11571/1488998
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