Tag Archives: fun with words

Word Game: Can You Find the Oxymorons?


A friend told me, “I want to listen to the news and know what’s going on in the world, but it’s really hard listening when the news is all bad.” She’s not alone. But, what if there were a word game to play, something fun to do while listening to all that bad news? Fun and bad news. Total opposites! Somewhat similar to an oxymoron—a figure of speech, usually one or two words, in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. (organized mess, controlled chaos).

Without diminishing the importance of today’s news and current events, here’s a word game you can play while listening to the news. Following is a list of 100 oxymorons commonly heard in current news reports and news-related talk shows. When listening is difficult, focus on finding the words! See how long it takes before you’ve found them all.

alone together
altogether separate
anxious patient

ball diamond
bar opening
barely dressed (without a mask!)
behaving badly

clearly confused
conspicuous absence
constant change
constructive criticism
conventional wisdom
come away
criminal justice
civil war

“Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment.”—Learned Hand

defensive attack
disaster relief
doing nothing

easy task
emotional reasoning
extensive briefing

feeling numb
fine mess
forced choice
free will

global village
going nowhere
great depression

head butt
highly depressed
home office
hopelessly optimistic

“Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad.”—Manly Hall

ill health
increasing losses
incredibly real
initial results

job security
journalistic integrity
junk food

loyal opposition 

mandatory option
missing here

new normal
never again

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.”—Herbert Spencer

occupied space
objective opinion
obstructed view
only choice
open bar
ordinary event

“Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.”—Charles Capps

passive resistance
peaceful offense
permanent change
personal business
political party
press release
pretty ugly
private citizen
progressively worse

qualitative data
questionable answer
quiet rage
quite unlikely

recorded live
required elective
restless sleep
riot control
rising deficit
rough finish 

scale down
set off
short distance
slow speed
small army
social  distance
spectator sport
stand down
strangely familiar

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” —John Keating

taped live
tax cut
tax free
tense calm
terribly good
true story 

unacceptable solution
unbiased opinion
unusual routine

very little
victimless crime

willful negligence

young adult

zero deficit



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Quiz: Those “Cray-Cray” New Words!



New words are constantly slipping into our vocabulary. Let’s see how many of these you can define without looking them up. Give yourself 5 points for each correct answer and an additional 25 points for the bonus entry.  Answers are at the end of this post.

WORD NERDsnervous (adjective–5 points)

mansplain (verb–5 points)

Squatch (noun–5 points)

glamp (verb–5 points)

wordcray-cray (noun–5 points)

demonym (noun–5 points)

Chiweenie (noun–5 points)

subtweet (noun–5 points)

aquafaba (noun–5 points)

schneid (noun–5 points)

word2.jpgonboarding (noun–5 points)

ghost (verb–5 points)

noob (noun–5 points)

bitcoin (noun–5 points)

facepalm (verb–5 points)

word salad (noun–25 points)


snervous:  to be scared and nervous at the same time

mansplain: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way

Squatch: nickname for Sasquatch

glamp: to camp with with amenities not usually found in the wild

cray-cray: anything that seems crazy

demonym: a word used to denote a person who is from or inhabits a particular place (Sooner, Hoosier)

Chiweenie: cross between a Chihauhau and a dachshund

subtweet: term for a mocking or critical tweet that alludes to another Twitter user (often without directly mentioning the user’s name)

aquafaba: the liquid that results when beans are cooked in water

schneid: a losing streak

onboarding: the act of orienting and training a new employee

ghost: to abruptly cut off contact with someone by not accepting phone calls, instant messages, etc.

noob: a person who recently started a new activity

bitcoin: a digital currency created for use in peer-to-peer online transactions
(I admit, I still don’t “totally” understand how bitcoining works.)

facepalm: to cover one’s face with the hand as an expression of embarrassment, dismay, or exasperation

Word salad: a string of empty, incoherent, unintelligible, or nonsensical words or comments

How well did you do?


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Fun with Spoonerisms

I worked with the queen of Spoonerisms. She twisted words and letters, accidentally in her case, to create humorous phrases. For example, she told me, “I have my pinger on the fulse of the department.” Of course, she meant the idiom: “I have my finger on the pulse of the department.”

Spoonerisms—words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped—got their name from the Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844-1930), Dean of New College in Oxford, England. Apparently, he made these verbal slips:

fighting a liar

lighting a fire

You hissed my mystery lecture.

You missed my history lecture.

cattle ships and bruisers

battle ships and cruisers

a blushing crow

a crushing blow

nosy little cook

cozy little nook

our queer old dean

our dear old queen

We’ll have the hags flung out.

We’ll have the flags hung out.

You’ve tasted two worms.

You’ve wasted two terms.

a half-warm fish

a half-formed wish

Is the bean dizzy?

Is the dean busy?

 Shel Silverstein uses Spoonerims brilliantly in his rhymes, like in this stanza from his billy sook, Runny Babbit.

Runny Babbit lent to wunch
And heard the saitress way,
“We have some lovely stabbit rew—
Our Special for today.”

If used wisely, spoonerisms can be integrated into your writing, sparingly, to add unexpected humor to an otherwise dramatic scene:

Boy leans in for his first kiss, but the girl turns away. Disappointed and rattled, the boy says,“What’s the katter? Don’t you like misses?”

The list of spoonerisms is endless. Read more about them on this site: Fun With Words. Then consider having a character use one or two in your next work of fiction.


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