This morning I was dropping off my daughter at the child minder’s. A couple of the older boys were misbehaving, and the child minder called them ‘the naughty boys’.
I told her this was a tautology, and then had to explain what a tautology is.
Fortunately, when I got back in the car my mind took a different turn, leading me to the related term ‘oxymoron‘.
Many moons ago I was sent on a business letter writing course, and the trainer spent some time probing how much the various trainees knew of the language. What a split infinitive might be, a tautology, oxymoron etc. In each case he asked if anyone knew what they were, and if anyone proferred that they might he asked them to explain the terms to the group. I ended up explaining most of them, but oxymoron was always my favourite. The sentence or term which is internally contradictory, and which I was asked to provide an example of. At the time a Chumbawamba album called ‘Swinging With Raymond’ had just come out, with a track called Oxymoron on it. The example given being ‘Good cop’.
And by the wonder of my iPod I got to listen to the album all the way the work. Not a bad start to my morning…