THE BLOG
08/29/2014 10:01 am ET | Updated Oct 29, 2014

Political Oxymorons -- the Birthplace of Brilliant

Jeanine McDonnell, daughter of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, says that her mother has a "mild obsession" with another man.

Mild lives in detergent adverts. Obsession gets draped around designer perfume. Put the two words together however and you get something that's kind of interesting -- refined and just a little bit dirty. It's an oxymoron, and in politics, oxymorons get a bad wrap.

Politicians will cry "oxymoron" in the same way that English footballers cry "foul" -- usually as a cheap way to distract the referee. The president, for example, was excoriated from the right for the oxymoron of "Leading from behind," while Sarah Palin took a rough-ride from the left when she mentioned "Conservative feminism."

Look past the mockery, though, and maybe there are some interesting ideas being deliberately driven into the shadows by that accusation of the "O" word.

What would a Conservative Feminist actually be like? And how about if we paused to give "Leading from behind" a little of the consideration that John Boehner clearly doesn't want us to?

Is the cry of "Oxymoron" meant to embarrass us into burying ideas before they've even taken their first steps?

Oxymorons aren't fouls. They're verbal spice. Oxymorons gave us the most delicious phrase in the English language -- "sweet and sour', which became especially flavorful when combined with the oxymoronic "jumbo shrimp." Does double the oxymoron equal double the delicious? Definitely maybe.

Oxymorons ever so slightly screw with accepted realities. They slam the right combination of the wrong words together in such a way that they open up whole new lines of thought. Oxymorons tamper with established meanings in ways that can be deliciously subversive and that's why proscriptivists of all stripes hold them in such contempt. And it's also why oxymorons are the free-thinker's friend.

So, long live Conservative Feminism, and here's to Leading From Behind. Oxymoron is the glorious birthplace of brand-new concepts. The next time you hear somebody levelling the political charge of "OXYMORON", then find out what it is they're attacking, and give that very concept some thought.

You might find that they're trying to distract you from something rather interesting.

Peter Paskale is a communications coach and analyst who writes The Presenters' Blog at speak2all.wordpress.com