One of my interests is having fun with language. I really enjoy word games, figures of speech and wordplays. Among my favourites are paraprosdokians. That's right - paraprosdokians. It's quite a mouthful, isn't it. It sounds like the name of a creature in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
"The term "paraprosdokian" is derived from Greek words meaning "against" and "expectation." A paraprosdokian is actually a literary device in which the last part of the sentence or phrase is surprising, shocking or unexpected. It can be found in prose and poetry and has been described as a "linguistic U-turn." In baseball parlance, a paraprosodokian is a phrase that "throws you a curve." The latter part of the phrase causes you to rethink the first part.
Former British prime minister Winston Churchill was an absolute master of paraprodokians. An example of a Chuchillian paraprosdokian is "There but for the grace of God - goes God." Sir Winiston also once famously remarked: "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing - after they have tried everything else." He reportedly described his political rival, Clement Attllee, as "a modest man, who has much to be modest about." Concerning democracy, Churchill made this well-known declaration: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried." He had some advice too: "If you are going through hell, keep going."
|Churchill: A master of paraprosdokians|
Paraprosodokians are often employed by comedians and satirists for humorous or dramatic purposes, Stand-up comics frequently use "one-liners" because the set-up and the punch line are in a single line. Henny Youngman's "Take my wife . . .please!" is perhaps the most famous one-liner.
Not surprisingly, comedian Groucho Marx was fond of paraprosdokians. He uttered the following zinger: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." Groucho also uttered this comment: "Time flies like a an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." Here's another one from him: "I once shot a diplomat in my pyjamas. How he got in there I'll never know.". And another: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."" Finally, I just can't resist one more from Groucho: "She got her good looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon."
Homer Simpson, the animated star of The Simpsons, has gotten into the act too. He stated: "If I
could just say a few words . . . I'd be a better public speaker."
Here's one from the much-married Zsa Zsa Gabor: "He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house.”
Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual father of India, proved he could be quite adept at using paraprosdokians. Here is what he once quipped: "What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea."
This paraprosdokian is attributed to playwright Oscar Wilde: "Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go."
Number 16 presents 35 paraprosdokians for your enjoyment and edification:
1. If you can't sleep, count sheep. Don't count endangered animals. You will run out.
20, I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paycheques.
21. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
22, A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
23, Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
25. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
26. Silence is golden, duct tape is silver.
27. Where there's a will, there are relatives.
28, Of course I agree you're a wit . . . even if your're only half right.
29. Sometimes I pretend to be normal. But it gets boring . . . so I go back to being me.
30, She often stood outside in order to be outstanding.
32. The food here is terrible . . . and such small portions.
33. You don't seem to be yourself lately. So tell me, what brought about such an improvement?
34. Your argument about the Middle East is sound . . . nothing but "sound."
35. The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.