Sunday, 4 December 2011

Trickster Twins

Much time has passed since i came across this outlandish yet silly sounding word - 'paraprosdokian'; yet it still hasn't left me. Reason enough to share it out here i believe. The word's rarity was pressed even further right now, when i typed this word and Blogger's dictionary refused to give it credential as a legible word. Either Google thinks too less of its users' vocab or we think too much of its reach.

All can be pardoned, as Paraprosdokian has emerged as only a 20th century neologism and has come to connote "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 reframe or reinterpret the first part." Simply put, it creates an anti-climax of varying types and degrees, depending on one's perception and attentiveness. Oh and intelligence, too. Well, guess that last one may exclude many people from being a possible appreciator. Did i hear the word 'offensive'? I'm sorry but if i agree, we'd both be wrong.
And at this juncture, allow me to throw in another similar psycho-linguistic stunt with a throwaway name - Garden path sentence. It refers to "grammatically correct sentence that starts in such a way that the readers' most likely interpretation will be incorrect; they are lured into an improper parse that turns out to be a dead end." Tricky waters indeed; needless to say, only the sharp man the boat.

Both of these end up catching us off guard, throwing us back to where we started. No wonder, these twins are loved in the community of comedians & satirists. Public personalities have gone on record with either, controversially at times, which include:

1. "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else." - Winston Churchill

2. "If i could say a few words, i would be a public speaker." - Homer Simpson

3. "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

4. "Mark my words. No, Mark, i really need my words." - Stephen Colber

5. "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car." - Bob Monkhouse

If i could extend it to a bigger stage - could one have a Paraprosdokian Life? Would one like to have one? A life which belies the beaten path and  near the end, churns up something no one, including you, had ever anticipated, given your history? The thought conjures up an arresting, tempting scenario - the kind that would make for a hot-selling biography once you're gone. Find another career Jobs. So, lets see, on one hand it could make you famous, while on the other hand, i wear on ring.

ps. If you tried to spy examples of either of the aforementioned figures of speech, apart from the quotes mentioned, you should find 3 of 'em. No more, no less. Exactement troi. Don't look at me doubtfully. I admit i used to be indecisive. But now i'm not so sure...

The song today, will be a personally Paraprosdokian one for me. By the Band named Touch and go, the song "Would you?"

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