Oxymorons, Paradoxes, And Contradictory Statements

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An oxymoron is two or more words that contradict themselves (e.g. "poor little rich girl" or "living dead"). Sometimes an oxymoron is intended to be humorous (e.g. "military intelligence" or "rap music"). A paradox is a phrase that contradicts itself (e.g. "A Cretan says 'All Cretans are liars'"). A paradox is also used to describe something that seems to be hypocritical.

Central theme[edit | edit source]

  • "I didn't write the words you hear me singing / I didn't sing the line before this one" - one of the Johns did, in fact, write the words, and did, in fact, sing them.
  • "That person took a train to Africa" - it is physically impossible to take a train to Africa, due to the bodies of water that isolate it from all nearby continents.
  • "Who was pitching for the Oakland Raiders" - the Oakland Raiders are a football team, not a baseball team.
  • "Striking out the batter she became" - it would be nearly impossible to pitch the ball and then hit it yourself, at least according to the standard laws of physics.

Briefly mentioned[edit | edit source]

  • 32 Footsteps - "32 new moons shining in 32 skies"
  • All The Lazy Boyfriends - "We can start at the end"
  • Birdhouse In Your Soul - "I'm your only friend / I'm not your only friend...," "but really I'm not actually your friend / But I am..."
  • Cupid - If you killed yourself as somebody else, you wouldn't be killing yourself.
  • Daylight - "Awake and dreaming"
  • Dial-A-Song Promo - "25 hours a day"
  • Experimental Film - "The color of infinity inside an empty glass": if the color of infinity (or anything, for that matter) were inside the glass, then the glass would not be empty.
  • Garden Of Eden - "We're gonna build a new old car"
  • I Made A Mess - "Trying to clean it up / Is making it worse"
  • I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar - "I was dancing with my friends / And dancing alone"
  • It Said Something - "Everything up is down"
  • It Was A Very Good Year - "The square root of a negative number" is an imaginary number (i = square root of negative one), which a year could never be; also, "We would have sexual intercourse, while at the same time we would not have sexual intercourse".
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - "Old New York"
  • I've Got A Match - "Which one of us is the one that we can't trust? You say that I think it's you but I don't agree with that"
  • Lie Still, Little Bottle - "'There's no time for metaphors,' cried the little pill to me / He said, 'Life is a placebo masquerading as a simile'"
  • London - "It's a secret between everyone and us"
  • Maine - "the heaven below," "the hell from above"
  • Mink Car - "Woke up in a beautiful dream": one doesn't wake up in a dream; additionally, "An open sign on an abandoned store" would be quite useless
  • On The Drag - "You're only happy when you're sad"
  • One Everything - Hints at a set-theory paradox in the verse that starts "What if you drew a giant circle"
  • Rhythm Section Want Ad - "Do you sing like Olive Oyl on purpose? You guys must be into the Eurythmics." Olive Oyl is high and squeaky, while Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics has a very wide range, but routinely takes it down into second tenor or baritone territory.
  • Snowball In Hell - "Money's all broke, and food's going hungry"
  • Sold My Mind To The Kremlin - "Fishing holes don't exist" - but they certainly do
  • Spin The Country Dial - The guy even says he's a cultural paradox.
  • Spiraling Shape - "Down, down, down you go" as the bass note inclines — a musical oxymoron
  • Tiny Doctors - "I'm never sad anymore" sung in a bleak, depressive tone
  • Turtle Songs Of North America - "Or it may sound to you like something that isn't a sound at all"
  • Village Gate Concert Promo - JF: "Weren't you that guy in that band They Might Be Giants that I was in?" JL: "No."
  • Whistling In The Dark - "I'm having a wonderful time but I'd rather be whistling in the dark". He said rather, which means that he wasn't whistling in the dark at the time. Later in the song, the narrator says "There's only one thing that I like and that is whistling in the dark". He said that he was having a wonderful time when he wasn't whistling in the dark, but then he says that whistling in the dark is the only thing that he likes. It also states that "I've often been told that you only can do what you know how to well" and "There's only one thing that I know how to do well" (probably whistling in the dark) but he is apparently doing something other than whistling in the dark.
  • You're Watching... - "You're watching They Might Be Giants' Dial-A-Song" (Dial-A-Song is a purely auditory experience)

Honorable mentions[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]