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What is a Paraprosdokian?

Updated on December 27, 2010

Paraprosdokians

This funny sounding word is a figure of speech and a literary device used by many humourists. Translates loosely to ‘unexpected’. If the beginning of a sentence causes the reader or listener to expect something and the end comes as a surprise, it is an illustration of paraprosdokian.

"She looks as though she's been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say when." P. G. Wodehouse
"She looks as though she's been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say when." P. G. Wodehouse

Statesmen have indulged too:
If you are going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill

And it is a favourite device of  humourists or writers who wish to add humour or drama to their lines and our lives.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my father, not screaming and terrified like his passengers. - Bob Monkhouse

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. - Groucho Marx

One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing. – Oscar Wilde

I remember one from a parody:
Mary had a little lamb while I had Irish stew.

Howlers - classroom paraprosdokians

Ignorant students create unintentional paraproskodians answering test papers, and they blight or light the correcting teacher’s life. That always depends upon the teacher’s sense of humour or lack of it. Also called ‘howlers.’
For example:

1. Shakespeare wrote many tragedies, comedies, and errors.


2. The Odyssey was not written by Homer but by another man with the same name.


3. Julius Caesar, when he was stabbed by his dear friend, said, “Tee hee, Brutus.”


4. Abraham Lincoln was
America’s greatest Precedent.

5. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic.

And anybody who has received forwarded emails would have read the paraprosdokian produced by the students of a first grade teacher. She gave them the first parts of proverbs and asked them to complete them. That exercise produced gems like: Where there’s smoke, there’s pollution and Two’s company, three’s the Musketeers.

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    • SunSeven profile image

      SunSeven 6 years ago from Singapore / India

      A new word learnt today!. Thanks Ashok.

      I have seen this used to great effect in some Malayalam and Tamil movies.

      Best Regards

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, SunSeven! Yes, they do use this profusely, don't they? :)

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

      Now I have to learn how to pronounce it! :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      I have problems too with that, Feline! :D

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 6 years ago

      GREAT new word Kenny!!

      I love the quotes as well - especially Churchill's!

      Happy New Year Dear Soul!

      Blessings always, EarthAngel!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      I love it! The word is valuable and the examples, wonderful. I'm familiar with them, just didn't know what to call them! Thanks, Kenny!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      Loved this hub! Voted up and funny. And I really needed to laugh today. Great new word that I won't remember so I will bookmark this. Your examples are great and made this for an easy read. I love learning new things. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, dear friends!

      Happy New Year, Earth Angel! :)

      I didn't know for ages, either, Nellie Anna! :D

      I'm delighted that you got your laughs, Toknowinfo! Maybe it's a good thing to pray for: Give us this day our daily laugh! XD

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      I learned a new word tonight, thanks!

      This paraprosdokian had me chuckling, tee-hee: :)

      "Julius Caesar, when he was stabbed by his dear friend, said, “Tee hee, Brutus.”

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Caesar was probably tickled to death! :D

      Thanks, VioletSun! :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      A real mouhtful andI never get that. I have a job with the 'I' hahaha.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      I used to pronounce it 'para-pros-KODIAN,' haha! :)

    • sligobay profile image

      sligobay 6 years ago from east of the equator

      Paraprosdokian is a mouthful but laughter is a bellyful with your delicious presentation.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, and Happy New Year, Sligobay! :))

    • sameerk profile image

      sameerk 6 years ago from India

      nice one , keep going

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks, Sameer, will do! :)

    • Edlira profile image

      Edlira 6 years ago

      Thanks for teaching me a new word, Kenny :-). Had actually many times ecountered it without knowing the name :-). Am sharing a favourite of mine: "If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong"..lol

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      LOL! Thanks for that line. I am also a member of the 'Used Many Times without Knowing the Name' Club. :D

    • Edlira profile image

      Edlira 6 years ago

      Kenny, as long as we use them right, the name shouldn't matter much... right ;-)....most times, anyway :-)?

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Of course, Eldira! Doesn't matter, knowing the name is only to impress friends. :D

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 6 years ago from Sydney

      Hi Kenny,

      I have never heard that word either,

      I am going to learn about.

      Have the best year ever in 2011

      Frank

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Long time, Frank! :))))

      Thanks, and wish you the best year too! :)

    • Zabbella profile image

      Zabbella 5 years ago from NJ-USA

      Good Hub!

      I read these somewhere.....

      1__"I did not say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you."

      2___"Hurting you would be the last thing I would do...but it's still on my list."

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 5 years ago from Chennai

      LOL! Thanks for these additions, Zabbella, and for making me laugh! :D

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      Your hub is pure delight! Thanks so much.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 5 years ago from Chennai

      Aw, thank you, Maralexa! :)

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      Great post...Thanks

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 5 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Htodd! :)

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 5 years ago

      I thought it sounded like a dinosaur, but now I know I was wrong. It is - well you explained it well in this article.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 5 years ago from Chennai

      Haha, it does sound like some such animal, 2uesday! Thanks for the kind words. :)

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