Rainy Days and Paraprosdokians Make Me Glad

“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! … With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

What is a “paraprosdokian“? Merriam-Webster doesn’t even take a swing. The word is not contained in their dictionary.

Cut the chase. Go to Wikipedia and get an “ah-ha” answer.

As Wikipedia explains it, a “paraprosdokian (/pærəprɒsˈdkiən/) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse 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.[1] 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.”

If that definition falls short of clarity and failed simplicity, give a listen to a few. You either will find that you already know what they each are, or else, immediately you will see that they are little more than just another attempt by the human egos of scholarly types to make something easy sound harder to understand than it really is.

As kids, we picked up on a few of these babies from the generation ahead of us. They weren’t presented to us as paraprosdokians. We just quickly caught the humorous part of each we heard on our own tickle. So much so, that we even started making up our own.

A couple of these paraprosdokians we learned from the great generation of American males fell down upon us during our younger adolescence. And that explains why the only two oldies I still recall had to do with chasing girls with, how else can I put it? In today’s terms, each example is also a model for inappropriate social pursuit:

  1. “Head for the roundhouse, Nellie! He’ll never corner you there!”
  2. “She was only a stableman’s daughter, but all the horsemen knew her!”

Did you catch the double-meaning aspects of each, especially in the second part of the second one? The phrase “horse manure” brays loudly in our ears.

At any rate, without the fancy “P” word ever setting foot in our minds, we were quick to come up with some of our own. And many of these spun off our 13-14 year old shared interest in the Lone Ranger television show we all faithfully watched.

Here’s an example:

Because the Lone Ranger and Tonto were always chasing the bad guys to their hideout shack back in the mountains, The Ranger and his faithful (Native-American) companion, Tonto, were constantly devising new ways to sneak up on the bad guys and spy on them before making the big retribution run inside for the sake of justice, guns blazing.

So, in our versions, we chose to take a “what if things go wrong” approach and put those words into the mouth of the always present invisible program storyteller voice:

“The Lone Ranger had stayed behind to eavesdrop on the Black Bart Gang and had managed to disguise himself as the cabin shack’s front door.  Tonto was riding up hard on the place after sending for help from town by wire. Unaware of the Lone Ranger’s disguise plan, he feared for his boss’s life and raced to force himself through the front door, six guns a blazing. Before the Lone Ranger could make his disguised presence as the door clear to his faithful Indian companion, Tonto shot his knob off.”



Thank you, Ed Szymczak (St. Thomas HS Class of 1956), for setting this whole line of thought in motion with that list of 17 paraprosdokians you emailed earlier to The Pecan Park Eagle. Enjoy them all, everybody. Since we never know when our last moment is coming, we may as well spend it laughing, if at all possible.

The Ed Szymczak List of Paraprosdokians

*1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it*
*2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you…. but it’s 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. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.*
*9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.*
*10. In filling out an application, where it says, “In case of emergency, notify….” I answered, “a doctor.”*
*11. 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.*
*12. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to guarantee a second skydive.*
*13. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.*
*14. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.*
*15. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.*
*16. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.*
*17. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.*
* NOTE: The Pecan Park Eagle especially loves # 14. People who get this one do really well in politics. Listen to the power of its core thought: To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target. If you plan a bullet train that connects Dallas with Houston, – and the thing ends up connecting Dallas with Lake Charles, Louisiana, you just explain that you were looking for a way from the start to get Texas’ gambling money out of the state quicker and that this was your goal all along. Of course, if that’s the best story you can come up with, you had better have another plan already in motion to move to Lake Charles too and run for Governor of Louisiana at your earliest point of eligibility and opportunity. Such a gubernatorial campaign could brim you over the top of swamp country success and float your boat into an ocean of paraprosdokian expression.
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


2 Responses to “Rainy Days and Paraprosdokians Make Me Glad”

  1. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a

  2. Patrick Callahan '56 Says:

    Although these probably don’t fit the above category; I consider them classics that I learned years ago while living on Upper Galveston Bay in La Porte:

    1) Salesmanship: =
    I could sell that like “guns at a prison break”.
    2) Strength: =
    Stronger that a $2.00 Mexican Plate Lunch
    3) Wealth: =
    I’m as broke as the Ten Commandments

    keep up the good work


    Callahan [’56]

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