Paraprosdokian

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A paraprosdokian /pærəprɒsˈdkiən/ is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.[1] Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a form of syllepsis.

Etymology[edit]

"Paraprosdokian" comes from Greek "παρά", meaning "against" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation". The term "prosdokia" ("expectation") occurs with the preposition "para" in Greek rhetorical writers of the 1st century BCE and the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, with the meaning "contrary to expectation" or "unexpectedly."[2][3][4][5] These four sources are cited under "prosdokia" in Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek Lexicon.[6] Canadian linguist and etymology author William Gordon Casselman argues that, while the word is now in wide circulation, "paraprosdokian" (or "paraprosdokia") is not a term of classical (or medieval) Greek or Latin rhetoric, but a late 20th-century neologism, citing the fact that the word does not yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary as evidence of its late coinage.[7][8] However, the word appeared in print as early as 1891 in a humorous article in Punch magazine.[9]

Examples[edit]

  • "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else." —Winston Churchill[10]
  • "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." —Groucho Marx[12]
  • "A modest man, who has much to be modest about." —supposedly Winston Churchill, about Clement Attlee[12]
  • "I like going to the park and watching the children run around because they don't know I'm using blanks." —Emo Philips[12]
  • "If I could just say a few words…I'd be a better public speaker." —Homer Simpson[13]
  • "She was good as cooks go, and as cooks go she went." —Saki[15]
  • "I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night." —Bill Hicks[8]
  • "I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." —Will Rogers[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Ament, Ernest; Scaife, Ross (2004-12-22). "A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms with Examples". Lexington: University of Kentucky, Wayne State University. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  2. ^ Demetrius. Roberts, W. Ryhs, ed. Demetrius On Style, The Greek text of Demetrius De Elocutione. BiblioBazaar. para. 153. ISBN 978-1-113-67981-9. 
  3. ^ Hermogenes. "34. On Speaking in Comic Style". On Method of Forceful Speaking. Invention and Method. Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-121-6. 
  4. ^ Tiberius (Rhetor.). De Figuris (in Latin). Nabu Press. para. 16. ISBN 978-1-141-72928-9. 
  5. ^ Philodemus. Indelli, Giovanni; Tsouna-McKirahan, Voula, eds. On Choices and Avoidances (in Italian). Bibliopolis. para. 19 ASIN B001MHLUF4. 
  6. ^ Liddell-Scott-Jones (1958). A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford. p. 1507. 
  7. ^ Casselman, Bill (2011-01-03). "The Bogus Word Paraprosdokian (and Lazy Con-Men of Academe)". The Perils of Rhetorical Nomenclature. Toronto: Casselmania: McArthur & Co. 
  8. ^ a b c Lundin, Leigh (2011-01-30). "Paraprosdokia". The A.D.D. Detective. Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  9. ^ Anonymous (1891-08-08). "Voces Populi". Punch, or the London Charivari, p. 69. 
  10. ^ a b Mills, Michael (2010). Concise Handbook of Literary and Rhetorical Terms. Estep-Nicoles Publishing. ISBN 978-0-615-27136-1. 
  11. ^ Jost, Walter; Olmsted, Wendy (2004-02-23). A companion to rhetoric and rhetorical criticism. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-4051-0112-7. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  12. ^ a b c LaPointe, Leonard L. (September 2009). "Figaro and paraprosdokian". Journal of Medical Speech - Language Pathology. 
  13. ^ Howard, Gregory (2010-01-11). Dictionary of Rhetorical Terms. Xlibris. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-4500-2029-9. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Brent-Smith, Alexander (1927-01-01). "Humour and Music". The Musical Times 68 (1007): 20–23. doi:10.2307/913570. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  16. ^ Andrews, Dale C. (April 24, 2012). "Paraprosdokia". Sleuthsayers. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  17. ^ xkcd • View topic - Paraprosdokian
  18. ^ "Paraprosdokians". Away With Words. Retrieved 2014-05-09.