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English with Countdown's Arun Mathur

Carrigaline man Arun Mathur appeared on the British television game show, ‘Countdown’ in 2019 and at the time we at The Carrigdhoun Newpsaper ran an article on him which was hugely well received and very popular. Arun is a gentleman and speaking with him is always very enjoyable. He has kindly put together some fun and interesting articles for us on the fascinating variations in the English language.

Telling us about this work, Arun said, “During the lockdown, I did some research on Contronyms, Euphemisms, Homonyms and Homophones, Hyperboles and Oxymorons in the English language”.

We hope you enjoy.


An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Here are some examples of oxymorons:

Single-Word & Compound-Word Oxymorons

  • Bittersweet

  • Frenemy (friend + enemy)

  • Love-hate

Adjective + Noun

  • Bigger/larger half

  • Controlled chaos

  • Crash landing

  • Cruel kindness

  • Deafening silence

  • Definite possibility

  • Deliberate mistake

  • Even odds

  • Exact estimate

  • Fine mess

  • Foolish wisdom

  • Friendly fire

  • Friendly foe

  • Hateful love

  • Heavy lightness

  • Honest thief

  • Living dead

  • Loud whisper

  • Loving hate

  • Old news

  • Open secret

  • Organised chaos

  • Original copy

  • Peaceful war

  • Perfect imperfections

  • Random order

  • Same difference

  • Silent scream

  • Sweet misery

  • Sweet sorrow

  • Terrible beauty

  • True lies

  • True myth

  • Unbiased opinion

  • Virtuous lie

  • Wakeful sleep

  • Walking dead

  • Working holiday/vacation

Adverb + Adjective/Adverb

  • Alone together

  • Awfully good

  • Definitely undecided

  • Falsely true

  • Painfully beautiful

  • Perfectly imperfect

  • Seriously funny

  • Strangely familiar

  • Strangely normal

  • Terribly good

  • Truly false


  • Act naturally

  • Agree to disagree

  • Kill with kindness

  • Make haste slowly

Arun Mathur from Carrigaline, who previously took part in Countdown. Picture: Adrian O'Herlihy


A euphemism is a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing, for example, ‘downsizing’ is a euphemism for ‘cuts’.

Here are some examples of euphemisms:

Euphemisms For People

  • He’s big boned. — He’s fat.

  • She’s horizontally challenged. — She’s fat, too.

  • He’s vertically challenged. — He’s short.

  • She’s between jobs. — She’s unemployed.

  • She’s getting on. — She’s old.

  • He’s not the sharpest pencil in the box. — He’s kind of stupid. Not his fault — he just is.

  • He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. — He’s rude and can be pretty unkind.

  • She’s on the streets. — She’s homeless.

Euphemisms About Getting Fired

  • We’re going to have to let you go.

  • Have you considered early retirement? — only for older people

  • I’m afraid you’ve been made redundant. — This one isn’t as bad, as it means your job doesn’t exist anymore. You’ve probably been replaced by a computer.

Euphemisms about War!

  • Collateral damage – When an attack kills innocent people (or damages homes, hospitals, schools, etc.).

  • Armed intervention – This simply means “military attack.”

  • Extraordinary rendition – This is when an army takes someone away without going through any legal system.

  • Friendly fire – This is when an army kills people on its own side, usually by accident.

Euphemisms For Death

  • She’s passed on.

  • She’s passed away.

  • She’s met her maker.

  • We’ve lost her.

  • She’s been put to sleep/put down. — for describing when a pet has to be killed by the vet.

Euphemisms For “Bad”

  • It wasn’t up to scratch. — It wasn’t good enough.

  • It left a lot to be desired. — It was pretty bad and unsatisfying.

  • That was a questionable idea. — There are problems with this idea.

  • How was the trip? It was … — How was the trip? It wasn’t that good at all. Not terrible but not good.

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