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It all began for me the night that Saturday Night Live debuted in 1975...
The guest host, George Carlin, did a brief monologue about food ("Why are there no blue foods?"), and segued into a riff on the incongrous phrase "jumbo shrimp" (or as he put it, JUMBO shrimp), finishing off saying "those two words are mutually exclusive - like Military Intelligence!"
The studio audience laughed and applauded, and I, a rather bookish young man, thought "How many other contradictory phrases can I think of?" And I've been doing it ever since.
As the "Me Decade" of the '70s tuned to the "Who Me?" Decade of the '80s, interest in the liguistic device now known as Oxymorons grew, and so did my personal collection. A list of over 300 on an office bulletin board didn't survive a job change in 1986, but I reconstructed it. A couple of books were published on the subject; I wished I'd put my collection into print (with appropriate comments - it would have been more interesting than what did hit the bookstores). I kept taking little notes every time I heard something that sounded Oxymoronic, but too many of those notes never survived to add to my now-PC-based list.
As we entered the "Not Me" Decade of the '90s, magazine titles that asked Is (enter phrase here) An Oxymoron? or proclaimed (enter phrase here) Is NOT An Oxymoron became a cliche, and my enthusiasm for Oxys (as I like to call them) waned. Until I got onto the Internet.
I found my first web-based Oxymoron list on a so-called humor site. The list was the ubiquitous Top 50. One of the first times I played with a search engine, I typed in OXYMORON, and discovered dozens of like-minded meme collectors (plus lots of clones of the Top 50 and lots more Is It?/Is NOT articles). Most lists were shorter than mine. One, on the website Focusing on Words, was a lot bigger - over 1100 examples of paradox, irony and clumsy language.
I downloaded and added hundreds more Oxys from almost a hundred different sites to my makeshift database; I promised myself if I ever got around to putting up a personal website, this megalist would be on it. Finally, in the fall of 1999, the Weblog Movement gave me both the motivation and a format to get "sited", and I was determined that my Oxy list would hit the web soon after. I had over 2000 unduplicated items, and the idea struck me: an Oxymoron List for the Year 2000 - THE OXY 2000.
But I had two matters to address: there was a lot of questionable, lame or insulting material claiming to be Oxymorons in what I collected, and I wanted to give proper credit to my sources, especially for the good oxymorons that appeared on only one other list. Some work remains to be done on both matters, but I could not let any more time pass before debuting the list. Check back here for more updates on my plans to add more cross-referncing, mini-lists and oxymoron-related features to this site.