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Paraprosdokians

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  We’ve heard these words many times. If you really want to do something, you can.  Even though you didn’t do it the first time, try again. Try harder. Try another way.

            It’s one of those old timey sayings that most of us probably hated when our parents said it to us, but yet we shared it with our children and so it goes from one generation to the next.  It’s so old-timey, it dates back to 1640 when George Herbert wrote, “To him that will, ways are not wanting.”

            A modern version, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” was printed in the New Monthly Magazine in 1822, two hundred years ago.  About eight generations have repeated this saying and in recent times, comedians use it as a paraprosdokian.

            Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected.  They are usually used in a humorous situations, and they create new brain wrinkles causing us rethink a statement.

            Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.

            Where there’s a will, there are 500 relatives.

            Where there’s a will, call me.

            Where there’s a will, there’s a family reunion.

             When Husband shared an article in Mental Floss magazine with me about paraprosdokians, I said, “A Parapro what?”  The more I read, the more I appreciated this thinking outside a box.

             Comedian Groucho Marx, a radio and tv personality of the 1950s, was a master of unexpected one-liners.  He uses common situations and surprised his audiences.   Room Service?  Send up a larger room. The husband who wants a happy marriage should learn to keep his mouth shut and his chequebook open.  I find television very educating – every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.

            Other comedians have used surprise sentence endings. “When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them,” Rodney Dangerfield said.   “The company accountant is shy and retiring. He’s shy a quarter of a million dollars. That’s why he’s retiring,” Milton Berle said.

            Winston Churchill often included unexpected statements in speeches. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.  I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.   A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.  If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

            We’ve all heard that we’re never too old to learn, but how about these twists?

            You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

            You’re never too old to fall off a horse.

            You’re never too old to play in the dirt. 

            You’re never too old.  Never.

            Make up your own paraproskokians.  Really, you’re never too old, assuming you have the will, there’s a way.

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