Oxymorons and Idioms: Spice Up Your Writing!

Chances are, you’ve heard of similes, metaphors, personification a billion times. Since you’re probably bored of those, here are some more exciting literary devices! As you read, see if you can come up with your own examples!

  1. Oxymorons

Oxymorons are a type of literary device that make two words contradict each other. Using oxymorons in your writing can help you describe many of the conflicts present in our everyday life. On the other hand, using oxymorons in your speaking can help create a sense of humor, irony, or sarcasm. Let’s look at some great examples!

  • Bittersweet
    • You’ve probably heard the term bittersweet before. It’s used to describe things and moments that are positive, but have some kind of sadness mixed into them. A great example of this is your sibling going off to college – you’re happy that they got in, but sad that they have to leave. As you can tell, ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ contradict each other! Although they have completely opposite meanings, they come together to define a unique emotion. 
  • Act natural
    • We’ve all heard this one before. You’re setting up your friend’s surprise party, and hear them coming in. “Act natural!” you say to everyone. You probably didn’t know that it’s an oxymoron, though! The word act implies that you’re something unnatural, so the words are contradictory.
  • Pretty ugly 
    • This one is probably my favorite! When an author is trying to say that something is very ugly, they also use the phrase “pretty ugly.” This can be used for many things – pretty nice, pretty old, pretty new – but it’s an oxymoron when it’s used in this context. Why? Pretty and ugly directly contradict each other.
  1. Idioms

An idiom is a group of words that are used as a common expression whose meaning is not similar at all to the literal words. Idioms are used a lot in both written and spoken English. Let’s look at some examples!

  • Spill the beans
    • No, this doesn’t mean that you spilled a can of beans in the kitchen and got yelled at by your mom….I’ve definitely done that before, though. Spilling the beans is another way of saying that you’re giving away a secret. 
      • Example: Susie always spilled the beans, so no one ever told her anything private!
  • Doing something at the drop of a hat
    • How fast can you drop a hat? Chances are, it only takes a couple seconds. Doing something at the drop of a hat means doing it as SOON as you’ve been asked. 
      • Example: Anna was an amazing daughter, she obeyed her mom’s directions to clean her room at the drop of a hat.
  • Killing two birds with one stone
    • This one seems violent, but it isn’t! Killing two birds with one stone just means getting 2 things done with just one action. This is one that’s used in everyday spoken English! In the example below, the speaker is getting his money and groceries in one trip.
      • Example: I have to go to the bank, and on the way back, I’ll pick up the groceries as well, killing two birds with one stone.
  • Once in a blue moon
    • This sounds super literal, but it’s not! This idiom refers to something that doesn’t happen very often, or super rarely! In the example below, since the speaker is on a diet, they eat fast food super rarely.
      • Example: I’m on a diet, and so I allow myself to eat fast food only once in a blue moon.

I hope you learned something about oxymorons and idioms from this post! There are so many more examples of these two, and chances are, you’ve heard people use them in everyday life. They can also help add a lot of flair and style to your writing. With that being said, I hope your next week of school is a piece of cake (another idiom)!

About the Author

Founder of Triangle Writers’ Studio, Srinithi has had a passion for teaching and writing for most of her life. She was inspired to start TWS after teaching 3 weeks of free writing camps, aiming to foster an educational environment for young students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a high school student and blog writer for several organizations such as Body Banter, The Yellow Cardinal, and Triangle Kids Central, she has immense writing and editing experience. Srinithi has been teaching piano in the Triangle area for the past 2 years, is a volunteer tutor at Triangle Tutoring, and loves interacting with kids of all ages! She is also an Assistant Coach at the Miracle League of the Triangle, helping children on the spectrum enjoy the game of baseball. In her spare time, she loves watching Disney movies, playing instruments (veena, piano, and flute!) and going for runs in her neighborhood.

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