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]uiuc.edu
Department of English office: 217-333-2392
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 South Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801