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    « How to Paradoxify a Character | Main | Oxymore, Not Less »

    Paradoxical Movie Stars

    The term paradox comes from the Greek, para, meaning “opposite” or “contrary to”; and doxa, meaning “belief.” You see doxa in “orthodoxy,” which literally means “correct belief.” A paradox takes a pair of truths and mashes them together like positive and negative ions in a nuclear experiment. The opposites can be attractive, helping your audience understand complexity while holding their attention.

    Contradictions come up a lot when we describe people. Just look at reasonable key words for famous people. The terms frequently contradict all on their own. 

    Lindsay Lohan: Beautiful, funny, screw-loose drunken nutcase.

    Sarah Palin: Fit, savvy, tough, funny, vicious.

    George Clooney: Handsome, suave, monotonal

    Mel Gibson: Handsome, funny, racist drunken nutcase. 

    Now: Can you paradoxify a friend—or, better, an enemy?

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Just read your book "Thank You For Arguing" which lead me to this website. Consider me a fan. Excellent.
    May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony
    Thanks, Tony!
    May 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Interesting. I always thought of a paradox in terms of polar opposites. I mean, something like the Eels first album Beautiful Freak. Perhaps oxymornic is more along those lines...
    May 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    In the country I live, at the gold age of 80's, we had a television ad about a snack, called "tostines". The commercial became known as the "Paradox of tostines", because of its slogan, which I'll try to translate: "tostines is taste because it's fresh or it's fresh because it's taste. Really amazing, isn't. In my point of view it is actualy the crix-cross figure (excuses for my bad english and greek complete ignorance)
    May 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVlad
    Yeah, I agree with Marco, that's kind of how I was taught paradox. Oxymorons are paradoxes contained in two words, while paradoxes often take longer to explain. The best one I can think of is time-travel paradoxes, like going back in time to kill Hitler, but then that changes things so you never have the need to kill Hitler, so you never do, so Hitler isn't killed, etc., etc.

    It seems like you listed pros and cons, rather than contradictions. Take the Lindsay Lohan example, those don't seem like contradictory qualities. Screw-loose nutcases are often funny when observed from a distance, and beauty can apply only to the physical. But if I said, "Bob is a generous guy, but he'd never give to charity," that contains a paradox.

    Help us understand, Figaro!
    May 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSGH
    I don't think we're very far apart, SGH. Paradoxes contain logical inconsistencies, with the pretense that they belong together. You can certainly challenge my examples; to some guys, a drunken nutcase can seem attractive indeed.

    An oxymoron is a condensed paradox, expressed in a single phrase.

    I consider both to be tropes, because they play pretend with reality. For more on this, see wordhero.org. And my next book will wax paradoxical as well.
    May 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro

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