Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE WEBSITE Inspiring Quotes is entertaining. Plus, I learned a new word from it, “paraprosdokian.” The word has a Greek etymology: παρά, para, “against,” and προσδοκία, prosdokia, “expectation.”

Inspiring Quotes, July 20, 2021, writes, “The Macmillan Dictionary defines a paraprosdokian as ‘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 re-interpret the first part.’ ”

The shortest paraprosdokian that comes to mind is Henny Youngman’s quip, “Take my wife, please.” Here are others from Inspiring Quotes, accompanied by my usual Internet sleuthing.

Abraham Lincoln. “If I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?” 

Portrait by Alexander Gardner.

 Mark Twain. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” 

Winston Churchill. “There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.”

Groucho Marx (Attributed). “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” 

Dorothy Parker. “He’s a writer for the ages—the ages of four to eight.” 

A favorite non-paraprosdokian from Dorothy Parker is her review of The House on Pooh Corner: “Tonstant Weader Foewed Up.” 

President Merkin Muffley. In Doctor Strangelove, the president admonishes, “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”

Ronald Reagan. “I also remember something that Thomas Jefferson once said. He said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying.”

Related Semi-paraprosdokians. Robert Benchley wrote, “Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.” 

And in sort of a dialogue paraprosdokian, Ring Lardner wrote in The Immigrunts, 1920, “Are you lost daddy I arsked tenderly. Shut up, he explained.” 

From Other Sources. Your Dictionary offers “40 Funny Sentences You Won’t Expect.” Among them are Zsa Zsa Gabor’s “He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house.” Steven King’s “I have the heart of a small boy—in a glass jar on my desk.” And Emo Phillips “Always remember my grandfather’s last words: ‘A truck!’ ’’

Which reminds me of Lorraine Keeton, R&T’s authority on all things grammatical. She’d say, “My grandfather knew the day and the hour of his death. The judge told him.” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021

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