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In describing a piece of computer code, I called it both "straightforward" and "roundabout", with the intention of communicating that although the code was more verbose than necessary, it was still easily understandable. However, my friend called me out on it, stating that these two words are obvious antonyms, because they both derive from the idea of travelling on a path: one is a straight path, and one is a path that moves around an obstacle. Are these two words antonyms, and is it appropriate to use them simultaneously to describe the same thing?

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Yes, the two words can be antonyms. Yes, much like a short tall tale, the two words can be used to simultanously describe the same thing (if that thing is both straightforward and roundabout, which you've already explained is the case). Perhaps your friend is an oxymoron? –  J.R. Aug 20 '12 at 22:19
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It would be OK if your sentence was long enough. Like if you said "This code is straightforward in that it's easy to understand, but it does X, Y and Z in a way that's more roundabout than it needs to be". But to say "This is straightforward, roundabout code" is just, well, oxymoronic (thanks JR) –  user16269 Aug 21 '12 at 0:21
    
Both straightforward and roundabout apply to algorithmic complexity. Terse, clear, verbose, easy to read would apply to style and syntax. A code can be terse but roundabout or verbose but straightforward. –  SF. Aug 21 '12 at 8:35

2 Answers 2

Yes, they are.

You can see it here, in Merriam-Webster, that "straightforward" is listed as an antonym of "roundabout."

By combining these two contradictory terms, you should be consciously employing an oxymoron, as mentioned by J.R. and David above.

But based on what I gather from your post, the two qualities may not be calling for equal representation. It's more like: the code is roundabout but it still manages to be fairly straightforward.

Using only one of the two adjectives and then elaborating on/ phrasing the opposite "roundaboutness" or "straightforwardness" would be clearer.

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If stated unconditionally, they are antonyms.

When sufficient context exists to explain the use of each of the words, such as what the author implies by them in the given context, then they can co-exist without conflict of meaning.

Though stated in a rather roundabout way, this is the best of a straightforward answer that can be given.

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