a figure of speech with a surprise ending


paraprosdokian = eine Redewendung, deren Schluss überraschend oder unerwartet ist, so dass der Leser oder Hörer den Anfang überdenken und neu einordnen muss. Häufig wird dadurch ein humoristischer, satirischer oder dramatischer Effekt erzielt.



“May I have a word... about Groucho Marx and the pleasures of a PARAPROSDOKIAN. He was a master of this splendidly named figure of speech.”

Jonathan Bouquet - The Guardian (12th May 2019)

Did you


- a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse 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 such as Groucho Marx and Jim Brewer.


"Paraprosdokian" is derived from the Greek παρά (pará) meaning “beside, against, contrary to” and the noun προσδοκία (prosdokia), meaning "expectation".

The "paraprosdokian" form was a favourite of Greek rhetorical writers during the 1st century BCE and the 1st and 2nd centuries CE,... and carried the meaning "contrary to expectation" or "unexpectedly".


Modern examples:

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.” - Russell Lynes

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.” - Bryan Whyte

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.” - Bertrand Russell

They begin the evening news with 'Good Evening,' then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.” - Source unknown

"Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read." — Jim Brewer

"I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night." - Bill Hicks

There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count, and those who can’t.” - Source unknown

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.” - W.C. Fields

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” – Peter De Vries

Wife texts husband on a cold winter morning:
"Windows frozen, won't open."
Husband texts back:
"Gently pour some lukewarm water over it and then gently tap edges with a hammer."
Wife tetxts back 10-minutes later:
"Computer really messed up now."

– Source unknown

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“The easiest way to explain the meaning of the word 'PARAPROSDOKIAN' is with example sentences.”

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