Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 09:42:40 +0100

From: Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU

Subject: Re: A new oxymoron?

Not just lawyers: teachers and parents (and of course psychometricians)

also ask questions to which they already know the answers. And everybody

knows that psychometricians are oxymorons.

Perhaps then it should be not an uninformed but a "pre-informed" question,

ie, the question ordinarily preceeds the answer, whether or not the

questioner knows or even cares about the answer. I say ordinarily because

there is a situation (popular tv quiz show--I stopped watching these after

Charlie Van Doren took the fall) where the answer comes before the

question. Perhaps the name of that quiz show is hysteron proteron? Does

this meet Gricean happiness conditions? Is anyone ever really happy?

As for the derivation of oxymoron, Francis Junius (the younger) in the

Etymologicum anglicanum (Oxford, 1743) suggests the similarity of Gk. oxy-

and Finnish aksi, 'the number one, ordinally speaking.' Moron is of course

the Doric sg. putative (masculine, class IIa) form of mor-, Italic mora

PDE more, 'more.' The singular of more being one, oxymoron clearly means

one-one, placing it in the category of litotic tautologies. Remember lucus

a non lucendo? QED.

Dennis, doctor grammaticus


Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Department of English office: 217-333-2392

University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321

608 South Wright Street

Urbana, Illinois 61801