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.

2 Comments to “Paraprosdokian”

  1. Paraprosdokian… what a mouthful. I can say it over and over again.

  2. Reblogged this on diekampfemanze.

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