Groucho Marx, Dorothy Parker, & Winston Churchill were masters of the paraprosdokian, a one-liner that ends in a manner that causes the reader to reconsider the beginning.
A classic example is Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
The word paraprosdokian comes from Greek. It’s a combination of para-, meaning against, & prosdokian, meaning expectation.
Here are a few anonymous ones:
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
War doesn’t determine who is right—only who is left.
Always borrow money from a pessimist; he won’t expect it back.
Light travels faster than sound - this is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on the list.
And here are a few more from luminaries:
Winston Churchill — “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
And another from Winston Churchill -- “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.”
Zsa Zsa Gabor --“He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce, I keep the house.”
Groucho Marx--”I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”
Albert Einstein--“The difference between stupidity & genius is that genius has its limits.”
Dorothy Parker — “If all the girls who went to Yale were laid end-to-end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”
Please leave a note in the comments with any other paraprosdokians you know, or with comments on the ones above.
Thanks to this week’s sources, English Forums, LiteraryDevices.net, Urban Dictionary, Wordnik, & Coffee with the Hermit.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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