About Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths

Hardcover edition: 2004
Revised paperback edition: 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins

Oxymoronica, originally published in hardback in 2004, came out in a "New & Expanded" paperback edition in 2015. This book is devoted to paradoxical and oxymoronic quotations—those very special observations that use a contradiction in terms or a contradiction in ideas to tantalize our thinking or tickle our funny bones. Examples of oxymoronica have captured the minds of people for centuries, showing up in such popular sayings as:

Less is more.

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The book presents over 1,500 "self-contradictory" quotations. This means that, like the three quotes above, every single quote in the book contains a "marriage of opposites." Each one brings together concepts that don't typically go together or are downright incompatible. Many of the quotes appear false upon first reading, but are profoundly true or perception-altering upon reflection. Still others are absolutely hilarious. Here are a few more examples:

Free love is too expensive.

—Bernadette Devlin

I shut my eyes in order to see.

—Paul Gauguin

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

—Margaret Mead

It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right.


There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe them.

—George Orwell

A normal adolescent isn't a normal adolescent if he acts normal.

—Judith Viorst

I've been collecting self-contradictory quotations since my graduate school days, after hearing less is more for the very first time. The notion that a saying could be true at one level and false at another one captivated my attention, and I quickly began searching for more examples. As my personal collection grew, I began organizing them by categories (political, artistic, literary, stage & screen, sports, etc.). Early on, I dreamed of one day compiling my personal collection in a published anthology, and Oxymoronica is that dream come true. The intended audience has been clear from the beginning—it's for people who enjoy wordplay and ideaplay. If this description fits you, I think you'll enjoy the book. And if you know such a person, it could be the perfect gift for the word and language lover in your life.

Praise for the Book

Since Oxymoronica was written with word and language lovers in mind, I'm gratified to report that it has already garnered praise from some pretty special people in that world. Here's a sampling of what some well-known verbivores and linguaphiles have said about the book:

You don't need military intelligence to enjoy this quirky, surprising, and educational tour through a previously uncharted region of the English language.

—Robert Byrne, compiler of The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said

As addictive as a bowl of peanuts—you can't stop after just one paradox from Oxymoronica!

—A. Ross Eckler, author of Making the Alphabet Dance and
editor of Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics

The oxymoron that best describes Oxymoronica is serious fun. Quotation guru Mardy Grothe's remarkable collection is as intellectually rewarding as it is wildly entertaining. The hundreds of paradoxical aphorisms he has ferreted out for this rich anthology are profound, witty, hilarious and sad — sometimes all at the same time! What's more, Dr. Grothe frames these intriguing quotations with intelligent and literate commentary that expands your understanding and appreciation of them. Whether you come to Oxymoronica for reference or for entertainment, you'll discover a trove of provocative, memorable wisdom as well as sheer reading pleasure.

—Don Hauptman, author of Cruel and Unusual Puns and Acronymania

The quintessential collection of memorable, push-me-pull-you, yin-yang statements. Mardy Grothe has labored lovingly in the word yards of paradoxology.

—Richard Lederer, author of A Man of My Words, Crazy English, and The Miracle of Language

Truly the most comprehensible collection of contradictions around.

—Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly and author of Weird and Wonderful Words

Table of Contents

I don't know about you, but I hate to buy a book without perusing the table of contents. If you're similarly inclined, this should help:

An Introduction to Oxymoronica
Chapter 1: Oxymoronic Wit & Humor
Chapter 2: The Human Condition
Chapter 3: Sex, Love, & Romance
Chapter 4: Marriage, Home, & Family Life
Chapter 5: Ancient Oxymoronica
Chapter 6: Political Oxymoronica
Chapter 7: Oxymoronica on Stage & Screen
Chapter 8: Artistic Oxymoronica
Chapter 9: Oxymoronic Insults (and a Few Compliments)
Chapter 10: Oxymoronic Advice
Chapter 11: Descriptive Oxymoronica
Chapter 12: The Literary Life
Chapter 13: Oxymoronic Insights From World Literature
Chapter 14: Inadvertent Oxymoronica