Grammar Paraprosdokian Sentences |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Paraprosdokian Sentences

This is from Dan, who offers us a new word and an idea worth understanding and enjoying. He suggests looking at Wikipedia’s link for more paraprosdokians:

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 reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. We hope you enjoy these!

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

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.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

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.

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

Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

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 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 checks when you say the paint is wet?

Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?

Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

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.

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

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department usually uses water.

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.

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

10 responses to “Paraprosdokian Sentences”

  1. gail aitken says:

    Great stuff!

  2. Natasha says:

    Was hard not to laugh out loud!

  3. Isaac says:

    This brightened up my day! My favorites were “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong” and “To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.”

    By the way, I love your site, Jane. It is simple, straight to the point, and has helped me become aware of things I didn’t know that I didn’t know——if that makes any sense. Anyways, my biggest problem seems to be the correct use of commas. I get confused with its usage before “but” and “and”. I’m not always sure whether or not I need a comma before “and” as in the sentence I wrote above “It is simple, straight to the point(,) and has helped me become aware…” Sometimes I feel the sentence needs it(,) but I’m never sure. It’s quite frustrating because people sometimes consult me for grammar help and I’m not even an English teacher, I just read articles about grammar. Well, thanks for your help in advance——if you find the time to do so. God bless.

    • Thank you for the kind comments. Commas are one of the most difficult punctuation marks to master. According to Rule 12 under the “Commas” section, “Use a comma to separate two strong clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction–and, or, but, for, nor. You can omit the comma if the clauses are both short.”

      I have painted the entire house, but he is still working on sanding the doors.
      I paint and he writes.

      In the case of this sentence, “It is simple, straight to the point, and has helped me become aware of things that I didn’t know,” there is a series of three word groups, which is why the commas are correct.

      Rule 1 says, “To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.” Note that newspapers and magazines do not generally use this rule as print space is too valuable to use on what might be considered extraneous punctuation.

  4. Brian says:

    Very few of these are actual paraprosdokians.
    ‘If I agreed with you..’ and ‘Change is inevitable..’ are both, but a majority of the rest are simply standard jokes in a normal format. While paraprosdokians often lean heavily on punning, not every pun joke is automatically a paraprosdokian. The entire point of a paraprosdokian is to force the reader or listener to reframe the original inferred meaning of the sentence.
    Emo Phillips does this more frequently (and often better) than anyone I know of. For example, one of his classic jokes: “I like going to the park and watching the children run around, because they don’t know I’m using blanks.”
    While originally thought to be a nice image, the listener quickly realizes that Emo is not referring to passively watching the children play, but instead to shooting a gun at them and watching them react.
    Similarly, Stephen Colbert occasionally uses paraprosdokian as a satirical or self-referential device. “If I’m reading this graph correctly, I’d be very surprised.” Instead of drawing the audience’s attention to the contents of the graph, the introductory phrase must be reframed as an action being done, and perhaps poorly, by Mr Colbert.
    As a final example, Groucho Marx (who is a frequent user of this type of humor) once said, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
    It’s all about the reframing, not just referring back to an introductory clause to set up a pun joke.

    I realize by making this sort of comment, I’ve become one of “those” people on the internet, and for that I do truly apologize. The only reason I even mentioned this is because I am quite a fan of paraprosdokian humor, and I wished to provide some sort of clarification.

  5. Tarun says:

    My question might be irrelevant to the topic being discussed, but I couldn’t post this question in “commonly confused words” section of the blog.

    I’d be glad if you can explain to me the difference between the words “technical” and “technological”.

    • The words “technical” and “technological” may sometimes be used synonymously. Often, the word technical means “marked by or characteristic of specialization” or “of or relating to a particular subject.” In these cases, technical does not refer only to the field or subject of technology. However, technological is defined as “relating to or involving technology, especially scientific technology.”

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