Russian Tutorial - Intermediate - Oxymoron in Russian

Oxymoron in Russian

How the impossible becomes possible

 article oxymoron

Figures of speech make the language brighter. Once one has started learning Russian, he or she will wonder about the diversity of stylistic devices of this language. One of them is oxymoron – usage of contradictory elements, which contain a concealed point. It is literally translated as “witty-silly”, and it makes oral and written speech more expressive, often adding extra shades of meaning. People express their opinions on certain subjects, creating a comprehensive and vivid image of them. Psychologically, oxymoron is described as a way of solving an unexplained situation.

Ideas, used in oxymoron, harmonically make a conjunction, drawing an attention to the semantic contradiction of the subject or fact. Oxymoron must contain an emotional and logical contrariety. Otherwise, it is a stylistic mistake or catachresis – wrong or unusual collocations. For example, белая ворона (white crow) is not an oxymoron. There are pigment-deprived crowds in vivo, and in that way are often described people, who are not similar to others.

Oxymoron is often used in Russian poetry:

         И день настал. Встаёт с одра

         Мазепа, сей страдалец хилый,

         Сей труп живой, ещё вчера

         Стонавший слабо над могилой.

    — А. С. Пушкин. Полтава

         Кого позвать мне? С кем мне поделиться

         Той грустной радостью, что я остался жив?

    — Сергей Есенин. «Русь советская»

Living corpse
and sad joy express pathetic and existential moods of the poets and their characters. Writers and filmmakers often use paradoxes of the oxymoron to attract attention to their works. Titles Горячий снег (Hot snow), Оптимистическая трагедия (Optimistic tragedy), Невыносимая легкость бытия (The unbearable lightness of being), Конец вечности (End of eternity), Обыкновенное чудо(Usual marvel), are well-known to those, who have even never read these works.

Among the most famous oxymoron examples is the novel of Nikolai Gogol Мертвые души (The dead souls). Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? It means fictitious workers, who are listed, but don’t really work or even exist. This expression is often used in common language nowadays.

Oxymoron is often used in advertising. For example, инвестиции на рынке форекс (investments on the forex market) is a professional oxymoron, as far as private currency market cannot be an object for investments, only for speculations.

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