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The “Original Copy” Oxymoron

At a recent networking meeting, I met a woman who seemed to be as into words as I am. We shared some of our pet peeves, which included oxymorons such as “rush hour traffic” and “first annual.”

Then she gave me this one:  original copy.

Have you ever given a document to someone who takes it to the photocopier and returns with it and tells you, “Here’s the original copy?”

What exactly is an original copy? How can a copy be an original?

The appropriate definition of original: “that from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made.”

The appropriate definition of copy: “an imitation, transcript, or reproduction of an original work.”

Two perfectly solid words that, when put together, make no sense.

Of course, what should be said is “Here’s the first copy” or “Here’s the original and the copy.”

The first time I hear either of these will be original. Thanks to Jodi M. for the idea.

Until next time! Use the right words!


August 29, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] The “Original Copy” Oxymoron ( […]


    Pingback by Oxymoronic Moron « EssayBoard | October 2, 2013 | Reply

  2. I suspect the actual term that should be used is “Master Copy” i.e. the original document that the copies were made from. Fumble the wording and its definition together and viola. You get an “Original Copy”


    Comment by Ye | December 21, 2015 | Reply

  3. Any of you ever hear the word ‘copy’ used in a newspaper establishment? There, the word is used to designate the actual text of an article – “Show me the copy on that story you are working on”. Such usage clearly allows for ‘original copy’ to mean the actual original text of a document, not the hard ‘copy’ of the document itself (another cool usage – ‘hard copy’). Please examine all possibilities before indicating someone else’s usage is wrong and yours is right. Research – Test – Conclude. Thank you.


    Comment by Aurelio Phyzee | February 22, 2017 | Reply

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