Paraprosdokian is a by-product of a Greek word that means “beyond expectation.” It is a wordplay kind of literary tool in which the final part of a phrase or sentence is unexpected. Its unexpected or surprised shift in that means seems at the quit of a stanza, series, sentence, or paragraph. Paraprosdokian is a linguistic U-turn that effects in humor or wonder.
This sudden finishing to a word or sentence causes readers to reinterpret the opening phrase or sentence of a text. Often, it is used to create comic effect. Some paraprosdokians alternate the that means of an initial phrase, and play on double meanings of the words; hence, it creates syllepsis.
Examples of Paraprosdokian from Famous People
There are many one-liner paraprosdokian examples from well-known people. Such as:
Dorothy Parker: “If all the ladies who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a piece amazed.”
Winston Churchill: “You can always assume the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried the whole thing else“
Albert Einstein: “The difference among stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
Mario Andretti: “If everything seems beneath control, you’re just no longer going fast enough.“
Zsa zsa Gabore: “He taught me housekeeping; once I divorce I preserve the house.”
Examples of Paraprosdokian in Literature
Example #1: My Speech to the Graduates (By Woody Allen)
“Contemporary man, of course, has no such peace of mind. He unearths himself in the midst of a disaster of faith. He is what we fashionably call ‘alienated.’ He has seen the ravages of war, he has known natural catastrophes, he has been to singles bars.”
Here, Allen discusses the extreme topic of the that means of human life. The “singles bars” topic is not as giant as the preceding topics, making it an sudden finishing.
Example #2: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (By Douglas Adams)
“Trin Tragula – for that was his name – became a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife might have it, an idiot…”
In these lines, the author enumerates the tremendous traits (“a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher”) of a person named Trin Tragula. However, he ends his litany of the person’s proper trends by citing how Trin Tragula’s spouse perceives him (“as his wife would have it, an idiot”). This ending is a wonder to the readers, and creates comedian effect.
Example #3: The Cottage Maid (By Patrick Branwell Bronte)
“Religion makes splendor enchanting,
And even where splendor is wanting,
The mood and mind,
Will shine via the veil with candy lustre…”
In this excerpt, the poet is speaking approximately religion in the course of the first four lines. However, inside the final line there's a sudden shift of sense. “Will shine thru the veil with sweet lustre” gives a totally distinctive that means from the rest of text.
Example #4: Shelter (By Charles Stuart Calverley)
“By the wide lake’s margin I mark’d her lie –
The extensive, weird lake where the alders sigh –
A young honest thing, with a shy, soft eye;
And I deem’d that her thoughts had flown …
All motionless, all alone.
Then I heard a noise, as of fellows and boys,
And a boisterous troop drew nigh.
Whither now will retreat those fairy feet?
Where hide till the storm bypass by?
On the lake in which the alders sigh …
For she was a water-rat.”
Shelter is one of the examples of paraprosdokian in poetry form. In the first two stanzas, readers are led to believe that the issue is a stunning woman (“A young honest thing, with a shy, soft eye;…/ Whither now will retreat those fairy feet?”). However, with the revelation in the closing line – that the subject is a “water-rat” – the poet makes them stop and want to reread the poem.
Function of Paraprosdokian
The surprising ending is used to create humorous and comic effects. It reasons the readers to reinterpret or reconsider the opening part of a phrase, sentence, stanza, or paragraph. Sometimes it's far used to provide dramatic effect, whilst at different times, it produces an anti-climax, which it is a very famous use amongst satirists and comedians. Paraprosdokian is employed in poetry, prose, and films, in addition to in music.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw