My wife is a very patient woman. She puts up with a lot of my random musings. While fixing breakfast yesterday, I made a comment that something—I can’t remember what—was indescribable. That made me pause. “Doesn’t indescribable, in fact, describe the object?” I asked her. She assured me it didn’t, to which I said, “But it’s an object that cannot be described, so that is a description of the object, isn’t it?”
“Do you think I should change the water on these flowers?” she asked.
“Don’t you find that interesting?” After years of this dance, I already knew her answer to that question. I readily acknowledge I have a tendency to rail about the quirkiness of the English language—don’t get me started on why we have the letter “c” when “s” and “k” already cover all the work!
I tried to draw her back into the conversation. “So is that a tautology?”
“Isn’t it an oxymoron?” she asked, accepting the bait.
“I don’t think so,” I said. We then had a brief discussion about oxymorons and decided that it was not an oxymoron. We never did figure out what it should be called. My wife’s interest ran out long before we got there.
“I’m going to wrap some packages,” she said and retreated to somewhere I wasn’t.
Turns out that while tautology is a great word, it doesn’t describe a situation where the existence of a word actually invalidates itself (e.g., indescribable does in fact provide a description). I still don’t know what it’s called, and it’s going to drive me crazy. If anyone knows, please set my mind at ease and tell me what this is in a comment.