The Power of the Paraprosdokian

I’ve enjoyed reading Wynne Lyon’s ‘Finding My Father’s Faith’. She’s introduced me to a new word – ‘paraprosdokian’.

A paraprosdokian is a ‘Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected.’  Coming from Greek words that mean ‘beyond thought, imagination or expectation’, it can be used to bring humour or provoke thought…

I realised that there are several paraprosdokians that I’ve used myself:

I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.

For every complex problem, there is an answer that is short, simple—and wrong.

I’ve heard a number in church:

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car.

I prayed for a bike, but I know doesn’t God work that way, so I stole a bike and asked God for forgiveness.

I’ve discovered famous quotes:

Winston Churchill: ‘You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.’

Groucho Marx: ‘I had a wonderful evening—but this wasn’t it.’

Oscar Wilde: ‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.’

The paraprosdokian that Wynne Leon quoted was in a sermon her Dad preached. He was telling the story of Daoud… caught up in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict… subject to extreme injustice, oppression and threats… Daoud’s response was: ‘WE REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES’.

Wynne’s Dad continued: ‘You might expect (him) to say ‘We refuse to… accept your abuse… or to let you abuse us… or even, to be friends!’ But no, he says we refuse to be enemies!’

Many use the sentiments of the paraprosdokian: ’The last thing I want to do is hurt you.  But it’s still on my list.’

The alternative is found with Daoud, Wyne’s Dad… and Jesus’ paraprosdokians: ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’

8 thoughts on “The Power of the Paraprosdokian

  1. Don’t forget my personal favourite…. There are three types of people. Those that are good at maths and those that are not – Stephen Fry.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Malcolm – thank you so much for this delightful post. Of course I’m thankful that you read my book but more than that, you’ve brought my dad and his humor close for me and I’m so delighted. And on top of the wonderful humor you’ve added with paraprosdokians, your delightful point about the greatest one of all. Love your enemies. Wow – wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

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