Ian Scott introduced me to a new word “paraprosdokian’ — “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.” Wikipedia adds: “It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. The following examples offer some humor and illustrate clever writing.
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.
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.
War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a workstation.
Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of a pool and throw them fish.
Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but always check when you say the paint is wet?
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
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.
And from Wikipedia, these more famous examples:
▪ “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
▪ “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” —Groucho Marx
“If I could just say a few words… I’d be a better public speaker.” —Homer Simpson
There are other lovely quotes on Wikipedia illustrating this construction. Enjoy!