Do You Like Paraprosdokian Statements?

November, 2010

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! :-)


Why Do Wordsmiths Love And Hate English?

June, 2010

In a homonymously manner, I would like to subject you to an interesting e-mail that I received a few months ago that had, as a subject, “For Word Smiths.  After reading the e-mail, I immediately saved it and decided that in the future, I would do a post on it. Well, the future is now! :-)

Even if you aren’t a wordsmith, there’s a good possibility that you have an appreciation for how difficult the English language can be. There are over 6000 languages in the world plus over 7000 dialects. English, though it’s only one of them, is very challenging to master for many of us.

Shop window with words WHITE’S CONFECTIONERY, COLORED MAN PLACE ONLY written by owner during wartime race riots between blacks and whites which swept the city and required the use of Army troops and martial law to quell. Location: Detroit, MI, US Date taken: June 10, 1943. QUESTION: DOES “WHITE’S” REFER TO THE ‘RACE’ OR THE NAME OF THE ‘OWNER’?

Ok, I know English is not considered to be as difficult to learn as Vietnamese and Japanese, but it can be quite confusing because of pronunciation irregularities and irregular verbs. In English, many words are spelled the same, but sound differently depending on the meaning. (see the numbered examples below) This makes the English language hard to understand, even for people whose native tongue is an English-related language.

Some of the problems with learning and using English come from the use of homonyms, homographs, etc.  For example, consider how we can use the word “left.” Left can be used as a direction or side (the opposite of right) or left can be used as the amount that remains (past tense of leave). Of course we have a similar use of the word “right.” Right can be used as a direction or side (the opposite of left) or right can be used as ‘correct’ (i.e. correct in judgement).

Homonym, homographheteronym, and capitonym are some classifications of groups of words that help make the English language interesting, complex and confusing. Please click on the “hyper-texted” names of each in the previous sentence to learn more about them.

I must admit that before writing this post, I was not familiar with most of them. Having stated that, I do not, nor did not, have any problem correctly reading the nineteen numbered sentences below. Maybe the language isn’t as hard as I thought! :-)

Is this an example of Capitonyms? NO! The words POLE POLE, in this case, mean SLOW in Swahili.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound. (homographs, heteronyms)

2) The farm was used to produce produce . (homonyms)

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse. (heteronyms)

4) We must polish the Polish furniture. (Capitonyms)

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out. (heteronyms)

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. (heterographs & heteronyms)

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. (homonyms & homographs)

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum. (heteronyms)

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. (heteronyms)

10) I did not object to the object. (homonyms)

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid. (heteronyms)

12) They were too close to the door to close it. (homonyms)

13) The buck does funny things when the does are present. (homographs, heteronyms)

14) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line. (homographs, heteronyms)

15) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow. (homographs, heteronyms)

16) The wind was too strong to wind the sail. (homographs, heteronyms)

17) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear. (homographs, heteronyms)

18) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests. (homographs)

19) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend? (homographs)

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

If we explore English language paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And, why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Pineapple: Where is the pine; where is the apple?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the “verbally insane.” In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Why do wordsmiths love and hate English? I don’t know and I have no idea! Oops, that’s an example of homophones that are also heterographs. Discussing those two would make this post too long. Oops, I did it again! :-)

And, I end with another pair of homophones that are also heterographs: “It would be appropriate and right for you to write a comment.” :-)

PS. – Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’?

Tackling Tonguing Tough Tongue Twisters!

August, 2009
Tongue "stucker" or twister?

Tongue “stucker” or twister?

Today, let’s have some fun with tongue twisters. Besides fun, we can also help ourselves become better at pronunciation. Fun pronouncing to improve pronunciation. Wow!

First, here are a few short ones to warm us up.

Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Unique New York
Greek grapes
he epitome of femininity
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?

Red lorry, yellow lorry

Unique New York

Greek grapes

The epitome of femininity

Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?

Supposedly, the toughest little tongue twister in the english language is:

“the sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.”

What do you think?

Some well known tongue twisters are “short poems.”

A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.

Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.

She stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him hiccoughing, and amicably welcoming him home.

Some can be a little “dirty.”

I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit; and on the slitted sheet I sit.

One smart fellow; he felt smart. Two smart fellows; they felt smart. Three smart fellows; they all felt smart.

Some “well known ones” are from longer poems.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Mr. See owned a saw.
And Mr. Soar owned a seesaw.
Now, See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw
Before Soar saw See,
Which made Soar sore.
Had Soar seen See’s saw
Before See sawed Soar’s seesaw,
See’s saw would not have sawed
Soar’s seesaw.
So See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw.
But it was sad to see Soar so sore
just because See’s saw sawed
Soar’s seesaw.

Is there any value to tongue twisters? In other words, other than fun, do tongue twisters help us in any way? Yes!

Teaching poetry to children is one value of tongue twisters. They serve as attention grabbers and help children to keep their focus on the lesson.

When learning another language, tongue twisters may help. They force the mind to concentrate on pronunciation.

Perhaps, the greatest value is “having fun with language.” Learning is a joyous and fulfilling experience. Tongue twisters can make it “funner.” (more fun:-)

How about a tongue twisting comment from you?grab-small-r21

%d bloggers like this: