11 Paraprosdokians That Will Make You Think Twice

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Paraproswhat? Yep, you read that correctly. Paraprosdokians are linguistic brain scramblers in which the latter part of the sentence isn't what you expected based on the first part of the sentence, causing you to re-think the entire statement.

Though the word itself is a combination of the Greek παρά ("against") and προσδοκία ("expectation"), its origins are still debated. According to some more recent info, the term paraprosdokian was coined in the 19th century and has been winding its way into modern usage since then (but unfortunately it still doesn't grace the pages of most paper dictionaries yet). Other sources attribute the term directly to the German philosopher Gustav Gerber of that time period. At the same time, there is record of the ancient Greeks using such figures of speech for both comedy and philosophy. Indeed, many modern comics and notable individuals have made good use of the paraprosdokian.

History aside, the list of paraprosdokians is constantly growing longer. Here is a list of some of the more famous of these figures of speech.

1. "If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong."

—Attributed to Sir Winston Churchill. The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was reportedly a big fan of the paraprosdokian.

2. "War does not determine who is right ... only who is left."

—Often (and probably mistakenly) attributed to Bertrand Russell, the 20th century British philosopher and mathematician.

3. "Where there's a will, I want to be in it."


4. "I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure."

—Attributed to Tommy Cooper, the Welsh comedian and magician who was known for his witty one-liners.

5. "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they've tried everything else."

—Widely attributed to Winston Churchill, but probably a paraphrase from Israeli politician Abba Eban.

6. "If I could just say a few words … I'd be a better public speaker."

—Homer in The Simpsons episode "Much Apu About Nothing." Spoiler alert: Only Bart laughs.

7. "I haven’t slept for 10 days, because that would be too long."

—Mitch Hedberg, the stand-up comedian who was known for his dry delivery of one-liners.

8. "Mark my words. Seriously, Mark, I need my words."

—Stephen Colbert, the comedian and former host of The Colbert Report.

9. "Behind every great man there's a woman, rolling her eyes."

—Jim Carrey's character in the movie Bruce Almighty

10. "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

—Hugh Herbert, the 20th century actor and comedian.

11. "One time a guy handed me a picture and said 'Here's a picture of me when I was younger.' Every picture is of you when you were younger."

—Another classic from Mitch Hedberg.

Additional sources: What the Tweet!? Write Funny One-Liners, Paraprosdokians, Quotations and Aphorisms for Twitter.