Joan from Torch Lake
reminded me of a figure of speech that is delightful to encounter. It involves
a sentence in which the last half presents a twist in meaning – an unexpected
conclusion – that causes the listener to go back to the first half to
reinterpret the meaning of a term.
This is a good example:
“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” In the first half, we
immediately interpret change as
alteration or transformation. But when we get to vending machine, we are forced to shift the meaning of change to coins.
This figure of speech is
called paraprosdokian. It comes from the Greek παρά (para-), against, and προσδοκία
(prosdokia), expectation. Let me share some examples.
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
- A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
- Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more
than standing in a garage makes you a car.
- Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people
appear bright until you hear them speak.
- War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
- You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a
parachute to skydive twice.
- Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at
home, even if you wish they were.
- I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a
dog, it’s too dark to read.
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