Friday, March 02, 2012
There's Nothing Like a Good Oxymoron
I love a good oxymoron -- an expression that seems to contradict itself. One of my favorite examples is personified by gannets; they're tremendously elegant and graceful in the air yet remarkably awkward and clumsy on land, so I tend to think of them in terms of awkward grace.
Their broad wings carry them effortlessly through the air; they sweep and wheel and plummet toward the sea with wings folded, knifing into the water in pursuit of fish with the grace of Olympic divers. They rise again into the air, returning to their nests to feed their young, and it's then that everything goes pear-shaped.
Just look at those splayed feet as this gannet puts on the brakes, flaring for landing. Could anything be more awkward than those big, black paddles set so far back on the body? They're useful for propulsion under water or when paddling on the surface, but when it's time to set them on the ground they've got all the delicacy and finesse of clown shoes.
It's small wonder, then that the gannet's raucous cry of grrr-aaah grr-aaah sounds for all the world like a warning cry of "Look out! Look out!"