What Is A Paraprosdokian Phrase | Funny Ironic Phrases
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.
Irony and Timing in 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?
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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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