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Started March 09, 2012 - 03:06 PM


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Is jumbo shrimp an oxymoron?

Is the food "jumbo shrimp" considered an oxymoron?

#2 Jess Replied March 10, 2012 - 07:54 AM


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"Jumbo shrimp" is what's considered an apparent oxymoron. If you just look at the words, it appears to be an oxymoron. It doesn't create a real paradox, though, just a pun. A true oxymoron combines contradictory terms. They can either be mistakes or create a paradox for literary effect. A few examples of actual oxymorons are "irregular pattern," "noisy silence," "ground pilot," and "serious joke." In your case, "jumbo shrimp" is only considered an apparent oxymoron, because the type of food is called a "shrimp" and they happen to be a larger variety of that type of shrimp. If "shrimp" was actually describing the size of something, rather than simply the name of an animal, then it would be considered an oxymoron.

#3 kmw Replied March 11, 2012 - 05:51 PM


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If you look at it closely, not necessarily.

We're not looking at the use of 'shrimp' in the term that would actually make this an oxymoron. The 'shrimp' in question is the food, not a person of diminutive height. So the phrase can't actually be translated as 'big diminutive person.' It's 'big crustaceans,' which they, literally, are, considering shrimp, in general, are small to begin with.

So, to sum up, in a weird way, the term 'jumbo shrimp' shouldn't really be considered an oxymoron. It just comes across as one at face value.

#4 Kris Replied March 13, 2012 - 08:33 AM


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Jess hit the nail on the head with this one, I think. Other examples of oxymorons are "screaming silence" or even "idle wild." Even though shrimp are small, there are certain crustaceans that are larger than others. Therefore, "jumbo shrimp" is simply referring to that particular type of shrimp.

On the other hand, if you were referring to someone as a "shrimp," meaning the person is small, then that is a different argument altogether.

For instance: "That guy is a shrimp!" "No, that guy is a JUMBO shrimp!"

Because "shrimp" in this case is referencing the guy's size, calling him a "jumbo shrimp" would then be considered more as an oxymoron. However, jumbo shrimp as an animal should not be considered an oxymoron at all.

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