Archive for February 4th, 2013

February 4, 2013

Double Entendre

what she said

A double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Typically one of the interpretations is rather obvious whereas the other is more subtle. The more subtle of the interpretations may have a humorous, ironic, or risqué purpose. It may also convey a message that would be socially awkward, or even offensive, to state directly (the Oxford English Dictionary describes a double entendre as being used to ‘convey an indelicate meaning’).

A double entendre may exploit puns to convey the second meaning. Double entendres generally rely on multiple meanings of words, or different interpretations of the same primary meaning. They often exploit ambiguity and may be used to introduce it deliberately in a text. Sometimes a homophone (i.e. a different spelling that yields the same pronunciation) can be used as a pun as well as a ‘double entendre’ of the subject.

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February 4, 2013


A paraprosdokian [par-uh-pros-doke-ee-uhn] is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase 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. Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a form of syllepsis.

‘Paraprosdokian’ comes from Greek for ‘against ‘expectation.’ Canadian linguist and etymology author William Gordon Casselman argues that, while the word is now in wide circulation, it is not a term of classical (or medieval) Greek or Latin rhetoric, but a late 20th century neologism. However, it occurs—with the same meaning—in Greek rhetorical writers of the 1st century BCE and the 1st and 2nd centuries CE.