What is a Paraprosdokian?
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.
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.’
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.