Every word or phrase falls into one of two categories: oxymorons, and non-oxymorons. The latter category can be sub-divided into (a) non-oxymoron words and phrases that people hold out as oxymorons (like “jumbo shrimp”, “military intelligence” and “civil war”) and (b) non-oxymoron words and phrases that no significant part of the English-speaking population thinks of as oxymorons (like “chocolate cake”, “Bauhaus” and “a tour along the Potomac”). Into which categories would you place “wholesome” and either of “awfully awesome” or “awesomely awful”?

Is the idea of an oxymoron useful for any purposes other than stand-up comedy and scoring rhetorical points?

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