[Ads-l] Word: paraprosdokian (not listed in OED, Merriam-Webster)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 26 19:13:01 UTC 2021

The latest Quote Investigator article uses the fun word paraprosdokian.

(Aside: The QI article lists a great 1945 citation from horror writer
Robert Bloch that I first saw in Fred's "The New Yale Books of

Neither the Oxford English Dictionary nor the Merriam-Webster online
dictionary list paraprosdokian.

Wikipedia has an entry:

Wikitionary has an entry listing a 1906 citation:

The Merriam Webster website does have an article mentioning the word.

Article: Petrichor, Cromulent, and Other Words the Internet Loves
Article subtitle: The internet loves these words—whether they're in
the dictionary or not

[Begin excerpt]
Definition: a figure of speech in which the end of the sentence is
surprising, or causes the reader to reinterpret the first part.
. . .
The use of the paraprosdokian may be largely confined to playful
writers and humorists (Groucho Marx was particularly adept at
employing it). The use of the actual word, however, is more the
province of people who are interested in bizarre and obscure words.
[End excerpt]

Canadian writer and broadcaster Bill Casselman wrote a humorously
disgruntled piece titled "The Bogus Word Paraprosdokian & Lazy Con
Artists of Academe". The website billcasselman.com with the article
appears to be unreachable right now. Here is a link to a snapshot on
the Wayback Machine:

Casselman originally doubted the existence of citations before the
1950s. But if you scroll down you will find a response by Scott
Enderle presenting links to 19th century citations.

For example, Enderle gave a link to a December 5, 1883 piece in "The
Cambridge Review" containing an instance of paraprosdokian.

Enderle also pointed to a pertinent 1902 edition of "Demetrious On
Style". See paragraph 153.

Casselman responded, "Demetrius on Style is the work of a forger who
lived some 400 years after dear Demetrios".

Also, here is a link to an 1841 volume about Cicero in German that
contains "para prosdokian".

Perhaps it is time to add paraprosdokian to the prestigious
dictionaries mentioned above.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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