Life as Paraprosdokian


By this I don’t mean life is unnecessarily long and complex—although for some people it seems so. A paraprosdokian is “a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected, (and) frequently humorous.”

Paraprosdokian is a prissy word for one-liners and it works on the same principle of misdirection as a joke. It’s a proverb with a punch line, an axiom with an attitude. Here are a few of my favorites:

The last thing I want to do is hurt you—but it’s still on my list.

I may have my faults—but being wrong isn’t one of them.

The early bird gets the worm—but the second mouse gets the cheese.

My play was a complete success—the audience was a failure.

I didn’t say it was your fault—I said I was blaming you.

A bird in the hand—is going to poop on you.

Life resembles a paraprosdokian when the latter part takes a surprising or unexpected turn. Sometimes the change is cruel and ironic rather than humorous. In my case:

I never went to college—but my only debts as I enter my sixties are student loans.

I spent decades in Bible study and ministry—and wind up with debilitating questions and doubt.

I survived three bouts of cancer, a bone marrow transplant and a serious car accident—and my wife dies.

Despite these painful elbows, life isn’t all negative. I have much to be thankful for, including a great family, close friends and the chance to pursue my passion, even though it doesn’t pay anything. And who knows what other plot twists the final chapters might contain.

For my part, I’m trying to make mine a story worth retelling—and not a bad joke.

“Humor is tragedy plus time.” Mark Twain

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2 thoughts on “Life as Paraprosdokian

  1. Great writing idea!! Elbows in life.

    On what does our present story hinge?

    My current leads to my future, and my current schedule is not building in time for finding a relationship. The future looks lonely and bleak at times.

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