Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or antithetical, but most often humorous. Winston Churchill was a master of paraprosdokians and often floored his opponents in Parliament with them
Do you want to win a heated office debate hands down? Do you want to shut up the loud-mouthed low-life at your colony’s monthly cocktail party? Does any one of Team Anna want to crush Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid during a verbal free-for-all on the dais at the Ramlila grounds?
I have a secret weapon for you: Paraprosdokians. You need not learn to pronounce the word; only get the meaning right. Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or antithetical, but most often humorous. Winston Churchill was a master of paraprosdokians and often floored his opponents in Parliament with them.
Here are some examples, which you can adapt to your situation: cocktail party or Ramilia grounds or a TV interview.
1. Where there is a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is to hurt you, but it is still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right—only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On your desk is a work station.
11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
12. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
18. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
19. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.
20. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
21. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
23. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
25. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
26. Where there’s a will, there are relatives.
27. I asked God for a bicycle. Then realised God does not work that way. So I stole a bicycle and asked Him for forgiveness.
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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