Today’s Oxymoron: Jumbo Shrimp

Seriously... "jumbo shrimp" has bugged me forever.

Seriously… “jumbo shrimp” has bugged me forever.

ox·y·mo·ron: noun, Singular: oxymoron; plural noun: oxymorons

Definintion: A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Got that, True Believers? I’m an English teacher, so sometimes this kind of thing really bothers me. “Jumbo Shrimp.” An unintentional oxymoron with no real purpose. We are denoting the size of the shrimp, as a selling point…except that the word shrimp has come into meaning as having to deal with something small. As a result, the jumbo shrimp is a needless contradiction in terms.

We simply could have called the sea life something else, and that new word would have the same sales factor…since the definition of that new word would be “Shrimp of Unusual Size.” The whole contradiction just could have been avoided, and it bothers me as a matter of semantics.

Fact…this problem has actually already been covered.

In the United Kingdom, the word “prawn” is more common on menus than “shrimp”, while the opposite is the case in North America. The term “prawn” is also loosely used to describe any large shrimp, especially those that come fifteen (or fewer) to the pound (such as “king prawns”, yet sometimes known as “jumbo shrimp”). See? We could just call the “king prawns”, or if we have to use the word “shrimp”, it could be “The king of all Shrimp.” No random contradiction in terms at all.

Australia and some other Commonwealth nations follow this British usage to an even greater extent, using the word “prawn” almost exclusively. When Australian comedian Paul Hogan used the phrase, “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” in an American television advertisement, he really wasn’t saying what would be said in his native Australia at all. I can only imagine that the band “Men At Work” soon disowned him as a result.

Since this is vaguely Aquaman related, and it has been a rather long time since I took a cheap shot at Aquaman:

The lovely artwork of Amanda Conner.

The lovely artwork of Amanda Conner.

Apparently, Supergirl has overestimated Aquaman’s ability to communicate meaningfully with other forms of life. Go figure. As of late, Aquaman’s comic book has not been able to communicate meaningfully with my wallet. Still, he can use his powers to have all of the King Prawn that he wants. Most probably a staple of his diet, although underwater, there is no way to “throw one on the barbie.” Presumably, Paul Hogan is mad at Aquaman, in the same way that Men at Work is mad at Paul Hogan.

Very little to do with school here. My final grades are pretty much online already, and they are due first thing Tuesday morning. A PA announcement last week actually TOLD all of the students this, so I have no idea what the week will unfold like. I am frantically planning my Hobbit event, “Hobbitpalooza,” hoping that it will go solidly. Time will tell.


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