anticipating the unanticipated

Discuss this oxymoron in the comments below.


  • Anonymous

    This is basically the same as ‘expect the unexpected’, which means to be prepared for anything because something ‘unexpected’ (‘unanticipated’) could easily occur.

    I don’t think it’s a proper oxymoron, but then what is?

  • Aaron Smith

    You are correct. This is not a proper oxymoron. What brought me to this page was another page listing “unanticipated” itself as an oxymoron and me looking for an explanation.
    Now, I have been fighting about what really makes an oxymoron since I was in 10th grade. When the teacher gave a quiz asking each student to list three examples of an oxymoron and then called on students afterwards to give some of the examples, one was repeated that had earlier been mentioned by the teacher (because it was in her teacher’s edition of the textbook), and that was “pretty ugly.”
    When the student used this as an example, I spoke out and argued that this was not a traditional oxymoron. I explained how every other oxymoron was a noun being described by an adjective that means the opposite of what the definition of the noun is or implies, and that in the case of “pretty ugly,” it is simply an adverb addressing the extent of the adjective “ugly.”
    Of course, half of the class became angered because apparently to them that was one they heard the teacher use and therefore listed it as an example on their quizzes. The only response I could get from the teacher was a look of confusion that showed she realized what I said made sense, but then just retorted that it was “listed in the teacher edition of the textbook.”
    Sadly, it was just another example of me beginning to realize that our nation had a problem with its public educational system, and that was 15 years ago, and as we all know, because of continued cuts on educational spending in the nation so we can build and operate more aircraft carriers and fight more wars, things have gotten a lot worse.
    Ultimately, I think at some point we have to just accept the fact that the United States has extreme literacy issues (though we are not the only one – in fact, I read today that a recent study of the United Kingdom’s educational system left that nation lacking behind even the United States in areas of literacy and numeracy).
    I remember an episode of Conan O’Brien (who I love) where Jennifer Garner was the guest, and Conan used the word “snuck” and Garner told him that snuck was not a real word and that because he went to Harvard, he should know that.
    In response, Conan pulled out his dictionary and when the word “snuck” appeared, he proclaimed triumph and victory and Garner just sort of bit her tongue and you could tell she was a tad embarrassed but also a tad annoyed.
    The fact is, snuck really is not proper grammar and that Jennifer Garner was absolutely right when she said it was “sneaked.”
    Unfortunately, two things have happened over time, which is another example of, like the US educational system making tests easier in response to low scores on standardized tests, that the rest of the US does the same thing outside of the educational system. Instead of US citizens becoming more educated and knowledgeable, their misusage of grammar is simply changing grammar to ultimately make what was previously bad grammar, acceptable.
    One thing is that it seems US citizens, like Conan did, are just accepting that anything in the dictionary means that it is a word and proper grammar. The other, bigger problem though, which the former problem is a result of, is the fact that grammatically unacceptable usage of words and words being used to mean things other than they actually do, are simply being added to the dictionary after it is used enough. Also, while originally, the dictionaries point out that the word is improper grammar, the longer that the new meanings of words or just made up words all together are used, the closer those words get to being legitimate until finally the dictionary just removes the notation of the false definitions of words or entirely made up words being grammatically incorrect.
    Conclusion, the system dumbs down to the people rather than the people becoming educated. It’s a good example of the United States’ problem of lack of education and knowledge. The only thing I would disagree with Jennifer Garner about (and Conan reinforced this) is this idea that degrees, or in particular, degrees from one of the more elite educational facilities, means that you are more educated and knowledgeable by default.

  • Guest

    One of your teachers made a minor mistake and you use this to conclude that the entire education system is faulty? The only thing faulty is your logic.

  • eliot

    So….why isn’t ‘anticipating the unanticipated’ a proper oxymoron?