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Oh, we know the standards: Jumbo Shrimp, Real Phony,Living Dead..... is peaceful demonstration in the list: reasons why/not are, of course unexpectedly anticipated.

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I don't think the word "demonstration" implies something non-peaceful. Technically speaking, showing off your science fair project is a demonstration. Unless you were building bombs, those are probably pretty peaceful. – MrHen Mar 16 '11 at 19:10
And you are building bombs and demonstrating them to me, I hope your demonstrations are either peaceful or at a great distance. – Malvolio Mar 16 '11 at 19:42
up vote 6 down vote accepted

'Peaceful demonstration' is not an oxymoron. There is nothing inherent in the definition of 'demonstration' that suggests order or chaos--a demonstration can be either. Describing a demonstration as 'peaceful' sets that demonstration apart from one that is 'chaotic', or even 'riotous'.

Here are a few more adjectives that are commonly associated with 'demonstration' that delineate one type of demonstration from another:

  • Quiet
  • Classroom
  • Ceremonial
  • Religious
  • Political
  • Military (not the same as riotous)

ngrams.google.com produces this nice graphic demonstration that underscores my point.

enter image description here

Edit: Created a new graph that includes 'violent demonstration'

enter image description here

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I'd call the opposite of a peaceful demonstration violent. – Marthaª Mar 16 '11 at 21:58
I'm not sure that 'violent' is always the opposite of 'peaceful'. A boxing match may be considered to be a 'violent demonstration' even when the audience members are orderly. – oosterwal Mar 16 '11 at 22:05
I'm not sure what a boxing match has to do with this: what I'm trying to say is that the opposite of peaceful [political] demonstration is violent [political] demonstration, not riotous [political] demonstration. – Marthaª Mar 16 '11 at 22:19
+1, although I still maintain that an oxymoron is only so when the definitions of the elements that make up the word contradict each other. Whether or not the object represented by the word is an oxymoron is irrelevant. – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 3:53

Peaceful Demonstration is only an oxymoron in repressive countries, where regardless of the intent of the demonstrators, the government shows up and initiates violence. Ordinarily[*] it is entirely possible to put your political opinions on display in a peaceful manner.

[*]: speaking from a modern, US-centric viewpoint; world history may make me a liar.  

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Unless my comprehension of the definition of an oxymoron is lacking (which is certainly possible), I can't help but think that it is, under no circumstances, an oxymoron. Even in instances where a "peaceful demonstration" turns aggressive, the definition of the word remains unchanged and thus can't be an oxymoron. Jumbo shrimp is an oxymoron because the definition is self-contradicting... not individual instances of the objects it represents. There is, in fact, nothing self-contradicting about an actual instance of a jumbo shrimp. (just the definition) – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 3:48
In a country where a demonstration is, by definition, a violent thing, a "peaceful demonstration" would indeed be a self-contradicting term. – Hellion Mar 17 '11 at 4:02
ok... I see your point. If you edit your answer I'll take back my -1 (it won't let me take it back unless the answer is edited) – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 4:13
Invisible edit made. :-) – Hellion Mar 17 '11 at 4:38
ok - I changed it to +1 – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 4:48

Why oxymoron?

a public display of group feelings (usually of a political nature)
can be very peaceful. People can sit totally quiet

And Shrimp: any of various edible decapod crustaceans

Just because a person who is deemed shrimp sized is small, does not mean that a huge shrimp cannot be called jumbo...

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I would argue that jumbo shrimp is definitely an oxymoron. There exists a definition of "shrimp" that essentially means small or small person. The small person definition is often used on non-personal objects via personification. It's good enough for me, at least. – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 4:00
But a Jumbo Shrimp is only ever used about actual decapod crustaceans. I am sure I can find other examples where using one of the definitions of a word with an attribute makes it an oxymoron and another not. – mplungjan Mar 17 '11 at 7:55
Jumbo Shrimp is more of a pun+oxymoron=old joke. Don't think about it too hard; it is now ingrained in the public conscious as a de facto oxymoron. – MrHen Mar 17 '11 at 15:27
Agreed. People think of "small" when they think of the word "shrimp." Then you slap on the word "jumbo" and now it's oxymoronic. – advs89 Mar 17 '11 at 20:45
jumbo shrimp is, of course, an oxymoron. an xoymoron is an apparently contradictory phrase. if (for some reason) a real-world "thing" arises, the phrase is still an oxymoron. – Joe Blow Aug 20 '14 at 8:37

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