English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top


Saline water does not contain salt.

So it is a __ statement. What is the word that should fill in the blank?

This statement is clearly making itself wrong in its later part. What should it be called?

share|improve this question
Bad example as it is a good sentence. One could extend it: 'Saline water does not contain salt, it contains disolved salt ions.' – Julian Jan 5 '13 at 8:49
I wrote it casually. Did not think to the deep! – Mistu4u Jan 5 '13 at 16:59
So, we need a word for a statement which at first sight looks wrong, but is actually correct. – Julian Jan 5 '13 at 17:37
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I like self-refuting.

  • self-contradictory and self-refuting imply an logical contradiction
  • oxymoron implies only a surface contradiction, like the living dead or jumbo shrimp
  • paradoxical implies a genuine question about its truth value
share|improve this answer

Incongruous, inconsistent, or paradoxical is sufficient.

share|improve this answer

It is said to be self-contradictory.

share|improve this answer

Responding to a couple points here...

Oxymoron(ic) can only be used in reference to a phrase - I think only a noun phrase - but not to a statement. And officially, I think, it should be used when the apparent contradiction is resolved when you understand what the phrase is referring to. (Like, the first time you hear "living dead" you're like, "WTF? Ohhhhhh... it's zombies!" And then it makes sense.") If it's really not resolvable, but is just an error, like "free-market communist", then it would be a contradiction in terms. (Though in common usage, I think you can use oxymoron for both.)

For a complete statement, you could use simply use self-contradictory, self-negating... I actually stumbled here looking for the same thing. I'm sure there's a cool latin phrase somewhere...

share|improve this answer

Another word for a self-contradictory statement is oxymoron.

share|improve this answer
NO! A self-contradictory statement contains an error (in meaning). An oxymoron is a paradox, a statement etc that appears to contain a self-contradiction but makes sense on deeper analysis, encapsulated in a very few words. There is a vast difference. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 5 '13 at 17:12

protected by tchrist Oct 21 '14 at 22:23

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.