What is a Paraprosdokian?

The English language never ceases to amaze me. From different words with the same spelling (minute: a unit of time or a very small quantity?; bass: a fish or a musical instrument?) to words that are their own opposite (sanction), it’s a wonder we can communicate as effectively as we do.

Thanks to a friend, I have found another wonder: A paraprosdokian (pair-uh-prahz-DOHK-ee-in) which is basically a sentence or statement with an unexpected ending. Here are some examples —

Will glass coffins be a success? Remains to be seen.

What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo?
One is really heavy and the other is a little lighter.

I went to buy some camouflage trousers yesterday, but couldn’t find any.

What do you call a bee that can’t make up its mind?
A maybe.

I tried to sue the airline for losing my luggage.
I lost my case.

Is it ignorance or apathy that’s destroying the world today?
I don’t know and don’t really care.

I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.

Are you still with me? According to the SuperSummary website (https://www.supersummary.com/paraprosdokian/), Paraprosdokian is a more recent word. The term is so new that, although it can be found in the Urban Dictionary, it’s not in most standard dictionaries. The word itself is a composite of the Greek para, meaning “beyond,” and prosdokia, meaning “expectation.”

So the next time you read a sentence that catches you by surprise and makes you smile, you can tell your friends you found a paraprosdokian.

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