What is it called when a sentence is seemingly contradictory, but has meaning that is understood?

For example, I saw a coffee truck with free coffee, but it sucks, so I say: “I was too cheap and I got the free coffee, but I paid the price.”

Is that an idiom? Pleonasm, perhaps? Does anyone know?


1 Answer 1


I believe you may call it a paradox. Although a paradox is neither true nor false or both true and false in subjects like mathematics, in literature, this situation may best be described as a paradox where you are at sixes and sevens regarding your gains and losses.

[P]aradox, apparently self-contradictory statement, the underlying meaning of which is revealed only by careful scrutiny. The purpose of a paradox is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought. The statement “Less is more” is an example. Francis Bacon’s saying, “The most corrected copies are commonly the least correct,” is an earlier literary example. In George Orwell’s anti-utopian satire Animal Farm (1945), the first commandment of the animals’ commune is revised into a witty paradox: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Source

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