Synonyms are usually referred to by linguists as 'near synonyms', because they argue that no two words mean exactly the same. If they did, one would probably disappear from use.

English is a language which has 'borrowed' from many varied sources during the course of its history. This has created a wide and heterogeneous lexicon. For example, terms which were originally French currently coexist with their Anglo-saxon equivalents:

petite small

tour trip

chauffeur driver

aperitif drink

promenade front (as in sea-front)

escritoire desk

He French term usually carries a prestige value over that of the English equivalent, which is often seen as basic and even crass. This is because of the history of French dominance over the English as a result of the Norman Conquest.

During the period of French rule after 1066, a state of diglossia existed throughout the south of England. Diglossia means that two languages are used by one society, but applied to two discrete functions. French was used for matters of church and state, whereas English was used by the common people for personal and family discourse.

The legacy of this diglossia is that we have a multitude of synonyms or near-synonyms at our disposal.

However, it is usually preferable to state the same idea in a variety of styles, rather than to repeat one definitive term for one specific phenomenon.

In Shakespeare's King Lear, the king confesses to being a 'foolish fond old man'. The use of two near synonyms has a poetic and dramatic effect, as one adjective has the effect of intensifying the other.


This figure of contrast is a combination of words which are semantically incompatible.As a result, the object under description obtains characteristics contrary to its nature: hot snow, loving hate, horribly beautiful, nice blackguard.

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Classification.The main structural pattern of oxymoron is "adjective + noun" (hot snow). The second productive model is "adverb + adjective" (pleasantly ugly). Predicative relations are also possible (Sofia's beauty is horrible). Besides that, oxymoron may occasionally be realized through free syntactic patterns, such as up the down staircase.

Communicative function.Oxymoron has great expressive potential. It is normally used in cases when there is a necessity to point out contradictory and complicated nature of the object under description.

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Communicative functions. | Oxymoron

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