If you occasionally like to add a new word to your vocabulary, here’s one you may not have stumbled onto before — paraprosdokian.
What the heck does that mean?
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used in humour for dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.
Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a syllepsis. (That’s another column.)
So, how does a paraprodokian look. Glad you asked. Try these examples:
• Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
• Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
• The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.
• Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
• If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
• We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
• War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
• Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
• The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
• The evening news begins with, “Good evening,” and then proceeds to tell you why it isn’t.
• To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
• A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
• How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
• Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
• I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay cheques.
• A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
• Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, “If an emergency, notify: I put ‘doctor.’”
• Why does someone believe you when you say there are four-billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
• Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.
• Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
• A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
• You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
• The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
• Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
• A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
• Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.
• Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
• I discovered that I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great
white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
• Some cause happiness wherever they go.
Others whenever they go.
• I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon and a shot of tequila.
• When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department usually uses water.
• You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
• To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
• Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
• A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
• Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
• I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.