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Minimum of up to three years of full-time applicable work experience in municipal solid waste services administration or closely related field.

Is the phrase minimum of up to three years an oxymoron?

  • ...which part are you asking about? – John Clifford Apr 5 '16 at 21:46
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    I'd be inclined to say yes, despite there being quite a few hits for the phrase online. "up to three years" would be anywhere from no time at all to three years, so adding "minimum" does seem contradictory to me. – John Clifford Apr 5 '16 at 21:53
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    It's not an oxymoron so much as the output of a moronic ox. – Hot Licks Apr 5 '16 at 21:54
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    I would say that it's simply self-contradictory, whereas an oxymoron should be done deliberately for rhetorical effect. – Simon B Apr 5 '16 at 21:57
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    An oxymoron is an apparent contradiction in terms (not a real one) stated concisely; it actually makes sense, but it takes quite a time seeing how. But this is an incorrect juxtaposition; 'a minimum of three years' is correct. The 'up to' constraint doesn't make any sense here. It's tantamount to saying 'a minimum of some amount of time (but we're not saying what) between 0 - 3 years' – Edwin Ashworth Apr 5 '16 at 21:57
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The phrase "minimum of up to three years" is not an oxymoron because an oxymoron is a concise paradox: a phrase of (usually) two words that contradict each other. Strictly speaking, the two halves of the oxymoron should be contradictory when interpreted literally, and the contradiction should be the "point" of the phrase--i.e., the reader should be impressed that such a thing could exist when logically it should not.

As stated by @Edwin Ashworth in the comments above

The 'up to' constraint doesn't make any sense here. It's tantamount to saying 'a minimum of some amount of time (but we're not saying what) between 0 - 3 years'

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It's hard to say. Though it does seem to defeat its purpose - up to three years could just as well be one day! It's really quite a stupid construction. "Minimum of" should just be removed and then "is required" added at the end of the sentence.

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First, a definition:

Oxymoron noun A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true). - ODO

The keyword is contradiction. In the phrase you quoted, namely, minimum of up to three years, there is no contradiction. The minimum is required to be "up to three years". There is no contradiction because there are possible values that satisfy, e.g. one year.

Here's your quote:

Minimum of up to three years of full-time applicable work experience in municipal solid waste services administration or closely related field.

This is not a sentence. Everything in the quote after Minimum just qualifies the word minimum. There is no verb or predicate related to minimum (or as an aside, anywhere in the quote).

Whether the quote is meaningful is another question, and that depends on the context. For example, suppose there are two pay grades: junior and senior, where the senior pay grade requires 3 years of experience (or if the bureaucrats prefer, a minimum of 3 years of experience). One might say the junior pay grade requires no experience, but if the form of each pay grade must be structured as:

  • Minimum of (period) years of full-time ...,

then "up to three" is a plausible, if clunky, phrase to replace (period). Of course, zero would be a better replacement.


tl;dr The quoted phrase is not an oxymoron; it is simply a roundabout way of saying that no experience is required.

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