Article image
19 Funny Quotes With an Unexpected Twist

You may not be familiar with the word "paraprosdokian," but you've almost certainly heard one. The Macmillan Dictionary defines a paraprosdokian as “a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.” It’s a strange word, but in Greek — from which it derives — it makes perfect sense: It comes from “παρά,” meaning “against” or “despite,” and “προσδοκία,” meaning “expectation.”

One of the oldest, oft-cited paraprosdokians comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote, “On his feet he wore… blisters.” “Blisters,” here, is the subversion of our expectations, as we’d normally expect someone to be wearing shoes, or sandals, on their feet.

The Aristotle example isn’t a side-splitter by any means, but paraprosdokians are frequently used for their comic effect by comedians and satirists. Politicians have also used paraprosdokians when looking for a laugh, whether poking fun at themselves or at others. Here are some classic examples of funny paraprosdokians, from Abraham Lincoln to Homer Simpson.

If I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?
— Abraham Lincoln

Everybody laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they're not laughing now.
— Bob Monkhouse, comedian

I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.
— Often attributed to Groucho Marx, but was in use before he made the remark

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
— Mark Twain

There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.
— Winston Churchill

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
— Attributed to Groucho Marx

He’s a writer for the ages — the ages of four to eight.
— Dorothy Parker

Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
— President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) in "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
— Often misattributed to Winnie the Pooh, despite being in circulation in various forms since at least 1906

I backed a horse today, twenty-to-one. It came in at twenty past four.
— Tommy Cooper, comedian

I also remember something that Thomas Jefferson once said. He said, “We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.” And ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying.
— Ronald Reagan

The day after New Hampshire, I went home and slept like a baby. Every two hours I woke up and cried.
— Bob Dole

People say I’m indecisive, but I don’t know about that.
— George H.W. Bush

When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.
— Rodney Dangerfield

I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.
— Mitch Hedberg

Behind every great man... is a woman rolling her eyes.
— Bruce Nolan (Jim Carey) in "Bruce Almighty"

If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible I may be too awesome.
— Barack Obama

She thinks I’m too critical. That’s another fault of hers.
— Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) in "Arrested Development"

If I could just say a few words… I'd be a better public speaker.
— Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) in "The Simpsons"

Photo credit: Dave Hoefler/ Unsplash

Author image
About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
Fill in the blank: "It is not easy to be a pioneer — but oh, it is ___!" - Elizabeth Blackwell

More Inspiration

Featured Articles

Article image
Article icon

15 Quotes on the Meaning of Success

September 22, 2021
Article image
Article icon

The Surprising History of Fortune Cookies

September 14, 2021
Article image
Article icon

15 Quotes to Kick Off Fall

September 14, 2021
Article image
Article icon

14 Quotes to Get You Through a Breakup

September 14, 2021
Article image
Article icon

15 of Jim Morrison’s Most Moving Lyrics

September 14, 2021
Article image
Article icon

Quotes for Each Astrological Sign

September 9, 2021
Article image
Article icon

'The Greatest Act of Optimism': 10 Quotes About Teaching

September 7, 2021
Article image
Article icon

Yogi Berra’s Funniest ‘Yogi-isms’

September 7, 2021
Article image
Article icon

Abraham Lincoln's Wittiest One-Liners

September 7, 2021
Article image
Article icon

13 Quotes on the Power of Positive Thinking

September 2, 2021