Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do You Know Any Paraprosdokians?

A paraprosdokian is a ten dollar word.  I looked it up.  According to Wikipedia, it means "a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is surprising or unexpected, causing a listener to reinterpret" the first part of the sentence.  It is often "used for humor, or dramatic effect ... sometimes producing an anticlimax."  So unwittingly, many of us have heard paraprosdokians throughout our lives.  Comedians from Joan Rivers to Chris Rock and popular humorists like Mark Twain use them all the time.

Now that we've expanded our vocabulary, lets enjoy a few paraprosdokians:
(source: unknown: a funny chain email sent to me)
1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.
3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.Freezing
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good Evening,' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
10. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
11. I thought I wanted a career.  Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, 'In case of emergency, notify:' I put 'DOCTOR.'
13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
14. 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.
15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.Broken heart
16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
17. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
18. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
19. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
20. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
21. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.
22. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
23. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
24. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
25. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
26. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
27. A diplomat is someone who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
28. Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.
29. I always take life with a grain of salt. Plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.
30. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Ten dollar words are interesting too, aren't they?  I like learning them, but notice that great writers seldom go out of their way to use them.   My building publishes a newsletter.  In it, one contributor is fond of using ten dollar words when simple words will do.  That person's writing comes across as pompous and stilted, though I suspect that M. Nameless is simply trying to impress us.  Abraham Lincoln, a brilliant writer and thinker, used simple language packed with wisdom and, as it turns out, paraprosdokians.  Also, he was mostly self-taught.

The New York Times ran a contest asking readers to post ten dollar words.  Click here.  If you wish to share either a ten dollar word, or a paraprosdokian, well pleeease do comment. It's fun.  As the brainy Oliver Wendell Holmes observed:  "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions."  And, isn't that reason enough to play along?

You may also enjoy:
The Story Of English, A Review
The Voice Premieres On NBC
What I Like About Mad Men
Welcome To The World Of Ideas


  1. Comments are neat- if short and sweet.

  2. Here's another one to consider - not original. "When I was 10 I thought my father was so stupid. When I reached 20 I was amazed at how much he had learned in those ten years!"

  3. I love the element of surprise - wish I could think of one right now, but I can't!