That ten-dollar word kinda threw you off, didn’t it?  I received the following in my email from a friend who knows I’m a writer.  I had no idea that these one-liners, so dearly beloved of comics and stand-up comedians, had a name.  Heck, it’s only a couple of years ago that I found out that the name for fear of the number 13 is Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning “3”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “10” and phobia meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”).  It has taken me a while to get over that.  Anyhow, back to paraprosdokian.


Comedian talking to the audience

Comedian talking to the audience - © Edward Bartel |

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame 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.

  • I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on the list.  
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.  
  • We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. 
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left. 
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Evening news is where they begin with “Good evening,” and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • 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.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says “In an emergency, notify:” I put “DOCTOR.”
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?
  • 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.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

If you enjoyed these, here are some more from Wikipedia:

  • Winston Churchill
    Image via Wikipedia

    “There but for the grace of God— goes God.” —Winston Churchill

  •  “If I am reading this graph correctly—I’d be very surprised.” —Stephen Colbert
  • “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” —Winston Churchill
  • “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” —Dorothy Parker
  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” —Groucho Marx
  • “She looks as though she’s been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say ‘when’.” —P. G. Wodehouse
  • “I like going to the park and watching the children run around because they don’t know I’m using blanks.” —Emo Phillips
  • “If I could say a few words, I’d be a better public speaker.” —Homer Simpson
  • “I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.” —Mitch Hedberg
  • “I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.” —Bill Hicks

Okay, I think I’ve got it now!


8 responses to “Paraprosdokians

  1. Sandra: Very fun post–and I didn’t even know what a Paraprosdokian was–but I guess it’s like art, you don’t have to understand it–you just know what you like. Cheers! BCC


    • Hi, BCC – thanks for dropping by. I love Greek-based words. They are almost an explanation in themselves. As for Paraprosdokian, I’ve heard comedians throw out these one-liners all my life and not once did I know the word for them (the one-liners, not the comedians :P). I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  2. I recognize the name, paraprosdokians, right away . . . although I can’t seem to remember it on my own.

    It’s like watching Jeopardy, knowing the answer without being able to access the right words to express that knowledge, and, then, when someone says the answer, you nod knowingly.

    I enjoyed these. Thanks!


    • Glad you enjoyed them, Nancy. We have a section at the forum for the Word of the Day. Most of the words most of us know, but there is the odd one that floors me. It’s a lot of fun, though, because we get to say how we feel about these words and whether or not we would use them in our writing. Most of the ten-dollar words we wouldn’t use. 🙂


  3. “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’m sending this one to my boss =P


  4. I’m betting this word has taken someone somewhere down in a spelling bee! Thank you for sharing so many examples. Some of my book-loving friends and I loosely call these kind of phrases, oxymoronites; which they aren’t exactly. But in this day and age it seems making up words is all the rage. There’s googled, skyped, blogged…. I always find your posts entertaining AND educational. Janet


    • Thanks, Janet. I’m glad my posts are so versatile for you. I feel the same way about your posts and your blogsite 🙂 I love the word “oxymoronite” – assuming I can remember it, I am going to start using it, if you don’t mind.


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