The next time you’re trying to think of an oxymoron--so you can provide an example to the one person in America who hasn’t yet heard the term--just say “family vacation.” 

   You can add “happy parent” if the parent in question is currently on a family vacation.

   I learned the word “oxymoron” in 11th grade English.

   The teacher defined it as “a two word paradox.”

   Once he told us what “paradox” meant, we all got pretty excited about it.

   I didn’t hear “oxymoron” again for thirty years and then suddenly it became all the rage.

   Most of the time people misuse the term, but they like to say it because it makes them feel smart, like when they say “onomatopoeia” or “you got that right” or “I only eat heirloom free range avocados.”

   Vacations are about getting away, but you can’t get away if what you’re getting away from is whining in the seat next to you.

   That’s probably why my wife vacations without me most of the time. 

   She also says I’m generally a drag on vacations because I refuse to go sightseeing or shopping.

   I also won’t go swimming in any body of water that contains animals who consider me to be food, target practice or something to play with while they’re digesting something else.

   When I was a kid I played with tiny model airplanes and cars at the breakfast table, even on vacation. 

   It drove my father crazy.  He used to say, “Why don’t you just play with your food like a normal child?”

   Normal children are naturally annoying on vacations, and all other children are worse, except for very quiet children, and then you’re always worrying about whether or not they’re enjoying themselves.

   You don’t have to worry about whether the non-quiet children are enjoying themselves because they inform you every five minutes that they very definitely are not, and they wonder aloud why you decided to torture them by taking them with you, instead of sending them away on their own so they could actually have fun.

   Adam and Eve were sent away on their own to have fun and ended up getting thrown out of The Garden of Eden.  That produced the first case of post traumatic stress disorder, but you-know-who Himself didn’t recognize it.  He thought the kids were just moping around because He’d raised His voice.   

   Adam and Eve had to survive without a reading list from Oprah, they produced more children than the Bible cares to record, they lived to be 900 years old, and had at least one child at the age of 800: yet from all available records it’s clear that they had the good sense never to take the family on vacation.

   Maybe that’s why they lived so long.

   If you’re on a family vacation, children should be seen at breakfast and herded together in groups that can be sent away with a counselor, not to return until very shortly before dinner, at which time they get room service, television and the chance to play with their iPhones, video games and laptops, which is what they were whining to do all through breakfast anyway. 

   Then you go downstairs to the good restaurant for dinner.

   The children may complain about this arrangement but once they become teenagers they will insist on it. 

   The last thing teenagers want is to be seen with their parents at any time, and on vacation there is absolutely nothing a parent can do, say or wear that doesn’t make a teenager contort like a salted slug and groan with terminal embarrassment.

   At the start of every family vacation my father used to issue instructions.  “No fighting in the car, don’t ask when we’ll get there, and when I’m standing on line checking in at the hotel, hold still and look polite so they don’t think you’re noisy brats and give us a room at the end of the corridor in the back of nowhere.”

   This went on every year and every year we fought in the car and whined about the long drive and ran around in the lobby, hiding behind plants and yelling to each other when my father was checking in.

   Then, when we were teens, we started giving the instructions.  “If we’re with other kids and you walk by, pretend you don’t know us, and don’t order for us when we’re in the restaurant.”

   My parents always came over with big smiles and introduced themselves when they saw us with friends and my father always ordered for us in the restaurant “to make sure the idiot waiter gets it right.”

   Which reminds me of another oxymoron you can use as an instructive example: family understanding.


Dear Major Ashpole,

   So you think people sit around all day trying to think up oxymoron’s? 

   Is that gay? Or what?

   Maybe some people do, but I think opposites attract naturally, so what’s the point?

Ellen Degeneres

So Much Funnier Than Everyone Realizes

A Stage, Anywhere

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I eat free range chicken and free range eggplant, but I’ve never heard of “heirloom free range avocados.”

   Perhaps, as a service to your readers, you might inform us as to where they might be had, locally, or by order, wherever (or just tell me and I can add my brand and we can make some me!).

Rachel Ray

Once and Future Queen

The Food Network

Dear Rachel,

   Perhaps, “as a service,” you’d also like me to wash your windows and fluff your bed pillows in fresh air every evening.

   The “service” I perform for my readers is producing this publication.

   And, by the way, there is no such thing as heirloom free range avocados.

   You, madam, are an idiot.

   But I’m still a fan.

   No matter how much weight you gain (it looks good on you, really)

Dear Major Ashpole,

   Children need their parents’ approval not only at home, in school, and in such activities as sports and gender association, but also within the context of social interactions with others, and as a family.

   Sending children off with counselors as a daily practice while on vacation creates a feeling of separation, and sends the message “you are not good enough to spend leisure time with your parents.”

   Parents are certainly entitled to some time alone when on a family vacation, but they should be careful to avoid sending the wrong message to children, a message that could scar a child’s self-esteem for life.

Dr. Joyce Brothers

Shrinking Every Day

Dear Joyce,

   First, thanks again for coming back from the dead and taking the time to write.

   As for your advice: Any child whose self-esteem is scarred for life as the result of being forced to go off with other kids and have a great time, deserves it.

  Most serial killers have a history of spending too much time with their parents, not too little, and there’s a lesson there for all of us.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   Post traumatic stress disorder is a terrible thing to waste.

Dan Quayle

Formerly A Heartbeat Away From The Oval Office

(and you think it gave you nightmares!)

Dear Major Ashpole,

   “You got that right” is a popular expression of approval and I don’t use to it to make myself feel smart, because I always feel gosh darned damned very definitely smart, thank you very much.    

   In fact, the only reason I use it is to make the common folk feel closer to me, which I consider to be a public service.

   But now, after reading your little dig, I’m worrying about whether or not to use it anymore.

   I mean, I used to think my ego would overcome everything, but if you can get me to start questioning my use of clichés just like that, I’m thinking maybe I should kill a couple of people just to make sure I know in my own mind that I’m still the f*cking boss.  

Tom Brokaw

Still The Greatest In This Generation

Slowly Clawing My Way Back Into Network Prominence (like I would ever really retire and deprive America of my special brilliance)

Dear Major Ashpole,


Dennis Miller

Still As Funny As Ever (seriously, you have to admit it, listening to me is like being on vacation in a library where all the books are smug and the librarians are asleep...I just made that up myself! Nietzsche. )

Dear Dennis,

   Glad you have time to write.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I teach fourth grade and I explained “oxymoron” to my students and asked them to think up their own oxymoron’s and make lists.

   The kids came up with amazing stuff.  Some of it is an absolute scream.

   I’ve sent the best 200 oxymorons to you, and I hope you’ll print some--if not all--of them (I tried to keep the list shorter but these are really just too good to miss, as I’m sure your readers will agree!).

   Frankly, I’m amazed the kids could grab onto the concept so easily!

Felicia Darkhart

Precipice Valley Elementary School

Rocky Flats, Arizona

Dear Felicia,

   I’d love to publish your list, but I only do one a year and I’ve already promised this year’s to the American Dairy Association for “Ten Most Popular Cottage Cheese ‘Go-with’s’” and, really, it’s a list you can curdle up with and get comfortable. 

   I do appreciate the fine work you seem to be doing with your students, and should you ever think of sending me another list, please take a sedative instead.


contents copyright 2010, 2012

all rights reserved

This website is satire and fiction.

Letters attributed to famous persons were not written by them. 

Letters attributed to unknown persons were not written by them.

Letters attributed to corporations or any other organizations were not written by them.

The entire site is of questionable value and no one should pay any attention anyway.