Is there a term to describe when we put two words together like this, like a reduplication? However, the difference they are two opposites or contradictions?]

For example, this quote here: https://english.stackexchange.com/a/35287


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    The collocation known unknowns was always perfectly credible (despite the dumbed-down press mockery of Donald Rumsfeldt), because an unknown = a thing which is unknown has long been standard usage. But I've never heard of unfamiliar being "nounified", and the only noun sense of a familiar I know is as a dated reference to a witch's cat or similar. Whatever - I'd say any and all such constructions are just wordplay. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 at 14:38
  • FumbleFingers is right. There is something here though. both are juxtapositions of related words chosen to look queer in some way, but which supposedly make some sort of sense, while being apparently contradictory. Both use cognate words (words with the same stem or derivation). In a way we are talking about a sort of oxymoron, though these pairs (like ‘bitter sweet’, Sappho’s immortal epithet for love glykypikron or γλυκόπικρον) are not cognate couples. If I were to coin a phrase, it would be that they are ‘cognate antithets’. But I am not sur there are enough to make it into a lexicon. – Tuffy Jun 11 at 15:48
  • You're right, they are oxymorons. I wondered if they could be any more than this. I think there is something interesting in the use of the same word to create boundaries or noun un-noun. I like how you have described it, as cognate couples. Compare: strangely familiar vs familiar unfamiliar. – Mac Jun 11 at 19:24
  • I would call it a Rumsfeld. – Hot Licks Nov 8 at 20:35

Phrases that combine apparently contradictory ideas are called oxymorons.

Collins Dictionary:

If you describe a phrase as an oxymoron, you mean that what it refers to combines two opposite qualities or ideas and therefore seems impossible.


a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness)

broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

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