Off topic: English word of the day: paraprosdokian
Thread poster: James McVay

James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:11
Russian to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2010

Here's a fun thing to waste a few minutes on. I just came across this word for the first time and thought my fellow translators might find it intriguing.

A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") 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, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraprosdokian

Examples:


� I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesnt 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.

� The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

� 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 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 "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".

� I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

� I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it...so I said "Implants?"

� Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

� Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

� 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.

� 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.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:11
Romanian to English
+ ...
Excellent! Sep 22, 2010

Now after this good laugh, I should get back to my workstation...

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Anna Smith
Switzerland
Local time: 14:11
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
Thanks! Sep 22, 2010

Loved the list!
Thanks for sharing!

I´ll try to use the word paraprosdokian one day without tying my tongue into a knot


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:11
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Trying to think of one or two to add Sep 22, 2010

Not sure if it's a paraprosdokian, but there was this from Graucho Marx:
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like bananas.

Early to bed, early to rise, and your girl goes out with other guys.

Money doesn't bring you happiness, but at least you can be miserable in comfort.

I wonder if one could find a "paraProZdokian" among the site rules or FAQs.

[Edited at 2010-09-23 06:20 GMT]


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:11
Italian to English
Antanaclasis Sep 23, 2010

Jack Doughty wrote:

Not sure if it's a paraprosdokian, but there was this from Graucho Marx:
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.




I think the Groucho Marx one-liner is basically an antanaclasis (using the same word in different meanings), Jack:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antanaclasis

although much of its humorous effect lies in the surreal "paraprosdokian" suggestion regarding the alimentary preferences of improbable insects ("time flies").


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:11
English
+ ...
Would these be classified paraprosdokian? Sep 23, 2010

Stewart Francis Stand Up Jokes

"My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that."

"I dedicate this show to my dad who was a roofer. So dad, if you're up there...."

"I quit my job at the helium gas factory. I didn't like being spoken to in that tone of voice."

"I wrote a book about a transsexual with a speech impediment. It's called Man or Myth."

"I want to donate a large amount of money to a rape clinic and I won't take no for an answer."

"There are two types of people I hate .... racists and Norwegians."

"Standing in the park, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets...then it hit me"

"I went to a Karaoke Bar last night that didn't play any 70s music, at first I was afraid, oh I was petrified"

"My dad has a weird hobby; he collects empty bottles, which sounds so much better than alcoholic"

"My wife and I have decided we don't want any children; if anybody else does we can drop them off tomorrow"

"We have a beautiful little girl who we named after my mom, in fact Passive Aggressive Psycho turns 5 tomorrow"


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:11
Italian to English
Against expectation Sep 24, 2010

Suzan Hamer wrote:

"Standing in the park, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets...then it hit me"

"My dad has a weird hobby; he collects empty bottles, which sounds so much better than alcoholic"

"My wife and I have decided we don't want any children; if anybody else does we can drop them off tomorrow"

"We have a beautiful little girl who we named after my mom, in fact Passive Aggressive Psycho turns 5 tomorrow"


Hi Suzan,

The point of a paraprosdokian is that it goes "against" your expectations.

Your last four examples do that nicely but I'm not so sure about the others. These two:



"I dedicate this show to my dad who was a roofer. So dad, if you're up there...."

"I quit my job at the helium gas factory. I didn't like being spoken to in that tone of voice."



rather give the game away in the first half of the sentence!

BTW, the structure of some languages means that authors can take the paraprosdokian effect to extremes. Turkish writers, for example, may carefully build up a mental image in a single sentence of Henry Jamesian proportions only to subvert it with an unexpected verb, which in Turkish comes right at the end.


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English word of the day: paraprosdokian

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