Do You Like Paraprosdokian Statements?

Do you like paraprosdokian statements? I certainly do! A friend of mine sent me a list of paraprosdokian statements a few months ago. I saved the list for use in a future post on this blog. Well, the future is now! :-)

So what are paraprosdokian statements? Well, they are sentences (figures of speech) where the latter part of the statement(s) is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. Wow, you’re probably thinking, “I want to see some examples!” Well, think no more! :-)

Here are three examples to start us out.

1. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

2. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

3. Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

Many famous people have used paraprosdokian phrases for humor and/or  statements of wisdom.

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat."


1. “He was at his best when the going was good.”  –Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor

2. “Take my wife—please.”  –Henny Youngman

3. “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”  –Will Rogers

4. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” –Winston Churchill

5. “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”  –Groucho Marx

Paraprosdokian, as derived from it Greek roots, means “beyond expectation.” Reading and thinking about the eight paraprosdokian phrases I’ve listed so far, I hope you can see how the name reflects what happens in our minds while perusing them. Some of our better comedians have used paraprosdokian phrases as a foundation of their humor.

Often, the paraprosdokian statement will change the meaning of a word in the first part by making use of a words potential double meaning. Here is an example: “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.” That one makes use to the double meaning of the word, “will.”

“You held your breath and the door for me.”

Sometimes though, the potential double meaning in a paraprosdokian phrase makes use of synonyms like “light” and “bright” in the following two sentences: “Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.” Another variation of making use of a potential double meaning of a word is provided by Alanis Morissette, who used the word “held” and  sang, “You held your breath and the door for me.”

Here are five more paraprosdokian phrases that make use of a potential double meaning of a word.

1. War does not determine who is right — only who is left.

2. Two guys walked into a bar. The third one ducked.

3. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."

4. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”  –Groucho Marx

5. “There’s a bunch of different crunches that affect the abs … my favorite is Nestle.”  –Shmuel Breban

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, my friend sent me an e-mail containing a list of paraprosdokian phrases. I’ve used some above and here are the rest of them. Enjoy!

Paraprosdokian Phrases:

Ø   I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

"The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

Ø   Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Ø   The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.

Ø   If I agreed with you we’d both be wrong.

Ø   We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Ø   Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Ø   Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’, and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

Ø   To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

Ø   A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

"I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you."

Ø   How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Ø  I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

Ø   A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.

Ø   Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says “If an emergency, notify:” I put “DOCTOR”.

Ø   I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Ø   Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Ø   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.

"The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!"

Ø   Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?

Ø   Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

Ø   A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Ø   The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Ø   Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.

Ø   A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Ø   Hospitality:  making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.

Ø   Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Ø   There’s a fine line between cuddling, and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

"I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila."

Ø   I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.

Ø   When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Ø   To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Ø   Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Ø   Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Ø   A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

Ø   If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?

So, do you like paraprosdokian phrases?

“Paraprosdokianly” speaking, you’re never too old to learn something stupid! :-)

5 Comments on “Do You Like Paraprosdokian Statements?”

  1. R2 writes with amazing clarity and wit! Wish there were more blogs like his…..but then again…..that’s what makes him unique.


  2. I haven’t slept for 10 days, because that would be too long!
    ~Mitch Hedberg


  3. You can always tell a Norweigan,
    you just can’t tell him much!


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