Would you recognise a paraprosdokian if you saw one?

Paraprosdokian exampleA paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase – or its follow-up – is surprising or unexpected in such a way that the first part has to be revisited in a new light.

Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase but also play on the double meaning of a particular word, e.g. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

They’re often used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anti-climax. So, not surprisingly, many comedians and satirists are big fans of the paraprosdokian.


According to Wikipedia, paraprosdokian comes from the Greek para meaning “against” and prosdokia meaning “expectation”. The word appeared in print as early as 1891 in a humorous article in Punch magazine.

Other paraprosdokian examples

Here are a few examples of paraprosdokian sentences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Over to you

Which of these is your favourite? Or do you know any other paraprosdokian sentences that you’d like to add to this list?

(image via)

Posted in Humour, Language Tagged with: , , ,

Have your say