Perhaps you’ve tried one without realising it. You’ve certainly read a few. In fact, if you’re looking for a way to grab attention, create drama or give your readers a laugh, a paraprosdokian sentence is a useful writing and presenting technique.
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase has an unexpected twist that makes the reader or listener reinterpret the first part. For the technically minded, ‘paraprosdokian’ comes from the Greek words for ‘beyond’ and ‘expectation’.
With thanks to a lawyer friend, here are some examples:
- A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
- I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
- I used to be indecisive, now I’m not sure.
- Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
- A bus is a vehicle that travels twice as fast when you run after it as it does when you are in it.
- Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.