What Is A Paraprosdokian Phrase | Funny Ironic Phrases

Trying to understand what a Paraprosdokian Phrase is can make anyone feel like a dunce!
Trying to understand what a Paraprosdokian Phrase is can make anyone feel like a dunce! | Source

What is a Paraprosdokian Phrase

To some, a Paraprosdokian is a way of life, to others a way to gain attention, and for even fewer they are a way to make a living. These phases have the distinction of starting out in one direction, but ending up on the other side of the original meaning. Used most commonly for the sake of impact within satire or humor, Paraprosdokians may have a spinning effect on our English language, but does the word itself hold the literal meaning attributed it in the 20th century? I think you might just be surprised in an entirely un-Paraprosdokian way.

Why DOES it take a whole box of  matches to light a campfire?
Why DOES it take a whole box of matches to light a campfire? | Source

Irony and Timing in Paraprosdokians

Paraprosdokians

"Why can one careless match start a forest fire, when it takes a whole box to start a campfire?"

This type of irony is often the foundation of good stage comedy. Without irony, some comedy would not even exist. A comedian's perspective plays a huge role in how an audience feels about the performer. Cynical and ironic comedy has long held a strong place within the world of a hardened, yet successful few. A brutal ironic Paraprosdokian phrase can make or break the career of this kind of comic, primarily when stage performing (stand-up) is their bread and butter.

Timing and Paraprosdokians

"Any man who hates children and animals...can't be all bad." (Said About W.C. Fields- thanks carterchas!)

When spewing any of the many Paraprosdokian phrases, it is easy to see that timing plays a significant role; as much, if not more so than irony can. For the stand-up comic, nothing is more true. But how can we get this kind of timing across in written form? This is where some creative grammar comes into play in the form of an ellipsis. Often times we will find an ellipsis—three consecutive dots that imply a pause, i.e.[...]— used between the first part of the Paraprosdokian phrase and the second. This is to bring the proper timing and impact deserved during the phrases' resulting twist.

10 Examples of Paraprosdokian Sentences

Paraprosdokians are those literary phrasings that take off in one direction of meaning, yet end in an entirely different and unexpected way. Here are ten commonly used Paraprosdokian phrases.

  • If I agree with you, then we will both be wrong.
  • War won't determine who is right, only who is left.
  • You are never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Change is assured, except from a vending machine.
  • He did not say it was your fault, he said he was blaming you.
  • A clear conscience is a sure sign of a poor memory.
  • Some people cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.
  • If I could just say a few words,...I would be a better public speaker. (Homer Simpson)
  • I used to be indecisive, now I'm not sure.
  • Why does someone believe you when you tell them there are 4 billion stars, but check when you tell them the paint is wet?

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Were you aware of what a Paraprosdokian was before reading this article?

  • Of course I did!
  • Yea, kind of.
  • Well, I have seen a few online before.
  • Not really.
  • Not at all.
See results without voting

Technically Speaking, is the word Paraprosdokian Properly Defined

When we look at the word Paraprosdokian, we can imagine that: Para, Greek for "beyond" and Prosdokian, Greek for "expectation" would be accurate enough to give the word acceptable meaning. When looking at examples of the this type of phrase, the meaning would appear to be spot-on. However, some argue (and with good cause) that this word is not found in any ancient Greek or Latin rhetoric, medieval Greek or Latin dictionary at all.

Those with a deeper understanding and study of English language—Greek and Latin rooted words specifically— have professed that the word Paraprosdokian only surfaced in the 20th century, and was not found prior to 1950. So, for what it is worth, the Greeks didn't really have a meaning for this type of phrase at all, unless you consider "A phrase where the end provides a surprise meaning other than what the beginning would have you expect" as an acceptable choice.

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Comments for "Are Paraprosdokian Phrases Proper English" 35 comments

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This was an interesting hub to learn about paraprosdokian. I never heard of that word or phrase before. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

JayeWisdom~ Thank you for your comment. Ain't education fun!?

Cheers~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

rahul0324~ Glad you found the hub to your liking!

Cheers~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

cartechas~ Thank for the information on W.C. Fields, I have not only revised the quote to reflect your information, I have credited you with offering it! Oh, and BTW, you gotta love the Romans! Thank you for leaving some fun paraprosdokian wit behind!

Cheers!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

fpherj48~ You are too kind. I would liked to have had a copy of that list you kept on the refrigerator back then. I bet there were some really fun paraprosdokian phrases on it! Thank you so much for the up++! Every little bit helps!

HubHugs~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

alancaster149~ Please, above all things, don't allow your handsome features to be "rearranged" due to a paraprosdokian uttering! Thanks for the very impressive remarks. I always appreciate those who try just a little harder!

Cheers~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Cliff Mendrez~ You are officially on the list! Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Robert Erich~ Niiice paraprosdokian phrase! Well done! And thanks for the smile...

Cheers~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Teresa~ Very cool! I am grinning from ear to ear knowing you learned a tiny thing from my work! Thank you for sharing your comments.

HubHugs~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

mary615~ I am in the same boat! So many smart authors, so little time to read! Always nice to find you in the comments.

HubHugs (hug your little Dog for me, too!)~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

SidKemp~ Genius unknown is the purest kind! Thrilled that you enjoyed the work!

Cheers~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

prairieprincess~ lol! It does take a few passes to get the pronunciation down without a doubt! I have always appreciated those who can think, write, and voice in a playful Paraprosdokian manner. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the matter!

HubHugs~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

collegatariat~ I find pure joy in words as well! Thank you for your kind remarks.

Cheers~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Stephanie Henkel~ So glad you had fun, and took away a little something! Always an honor to see you in the comment section Steph!

HubHugs~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Lucky Cats~ I just love the brilliance of writers, and your comment simply proves it! Epigramman is a sure master of the Paraprosdokian phrase! Thanks for sharing in the fun!

HubHugs~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

clitgirl~ LOL! Too funny Cyndi! Thanks for the shares my friend!

HubHugs~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

DzyMsLizzy~ Wow! I am so used to learning from you that this is quite a treat to have actually shared a tidbit you had not known about! Nice to see you here today, ma'am!

I am still looking for those answers as well...;)!

hubHugs~


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K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Ruchira~ Glad to provide a little informatin that you may not have known before now! Thanks for the comments!

Cheers~


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

I didn't have a clue until you explained. Now I know - although I haven't consciously used them before - I shall use them VERY sparingly, like sugar in tea(and I for one don't). Not everybody understands - or appreciates - them anyway. In some circles in this part of the world they might be taken amiss and I end up with my handsome features re-arranged! Still I voted it up and acknowledge a pin-sharp wit (not a lot would).


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

K9....EXCELLENT! I did happen to know about this particular phrase since I read an article some years ago and I was so amused, I recall cutting it out and using it as a bookmark for awhile.

Paraprosdokian phrases are the epitome of cleverness, comedy and sarcasm....with a pleasant element of surprise.

No surprise that you have done another awesome job at sharing this with us!! UP++


carterchas profile image

carterchas 4 years ago from Texas

I am often guilty of a version of this called punning.

The quote was not stated by W.C.Fields, it was stated ABOUT him. This is a common mistake.

I think one of the best examples of this is Mark Anthony's speech from Shakespere's Julius Ceasar.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears. I have come to bury Ceasar, not to praise him."

He then incites the crowd without actually accusing the assassins.


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Some great quotes up there! Did not anything about such stuff and it's meaning! though i think might myself have used such phrases once or twice!

Great hub!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

I didn't know the term for that type of wordplay, so thanks for educating me.


Cliff Mendrez profile image

Cliff Mendrez 4 years ago from Philippines

Add me to the list of first-time hearers of paraprosdokian! Really interesting hub! Up and sharing!


Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

If you think that your article taught me something new, you'd be completely right. Thanks for sharing this entertaining bit of information.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Paraprodokian is certainly a new word for me. Not sure if I can pronounce it three times to make it my own! Very interesting and enlightening hub. I really enjoyed this and learned a lot!


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I learn something new every day here on HubPages! My family will think I'm so smart when I ask them this question: what is a paraprosdokian (did I spell that right?) Great Hub.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Paraprosdokian - a word I never knew, for something I've been doing a long time.

Thanks - I thought I'd at least heard all of the terms of language use, and this was a brand new phrase for a very old practice! Voted up and funny!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 4 years ago from Canada

Wow, very cool! I did not know what they were, but I love hearing them in conversation or in writing. It takes a clever mind to create one. Now, I have to practice saying that word!


collegatariat profile image

collegatariat 4 years ago

What a fun hub! Words are so fascinating and interesting. Thank you for solidifying my understanding of the subject.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

Thanks for teach me a new word! Paraprosdokian...I love the word, and I really like paraprosdokian phrases. Very informative and interesting. Voted up!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Yes, I do...and the answer is in your question! Great! FUN! I first used the term when addressing one of Epigramman's poems....because he tends to use Paraprosdokian phrases often!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Paraprosdokian - I had to copy and paste that here. I never heard of this before. Wow. Great info and awesome hub! I never knew there was a term for this "way of life" but now, you learn something ever day - especially on HubPages. Hehe. Votes and shares. :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Wow!! Cool! A new word to play with! I missed out on that in my hub on ridiculous words.. ;-)

Thanks for sharing this interesting tidbit. Well put, and still no answer about the campfire (or BBQ) irony.... ;-)

Voted up, interesting, useful, funny and shared.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

I had no clue that a word paraprosdokian even existed...lol

Thanks for enlightening me :) Cheers!

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