Paraprosdokian: 40 Funny Sentences You Won't Expect

Updated June 26, 2020
Stephen King quote example paraprosdokian joke
    Stephen King quote example paraprosdokian joke
    Slaven Vlasic / Contributor / Getty - November 11, 2014

A paraprosdokian is a sentence or statement with an unexpected ending. It means “against expectations” in Greek, and typically puts the first part of the sentence in a new and humorous context. Keep reading for examples of well-known paraprosdokians from comedy, literature, and music.

Funny Paraprosdokian Sentence Examples

Using these figures of speech in a joke, piece of writing, or a song can expertly twist your meaning. They keep an audience engaged and aware of a comedian’s ability with wordplay. When you start reading examples of paraprosdokians, you’ll find that they make up the punchline of some hilarious and sophisticated one-liners!

Paraprosdokians From Comedians

Henny Youngman’s famous joke “Take my wife – please!” is perhaps the most well-known example of a paraprosdokian in comedy. You expect that he’s using his wife as an example for a joke, but then indicates he wants you to literally take her away by adding the punchline “please!”

Check out these additional comedic paraprosdokian examples, and notice how they often use puns:

  • I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it. –Groucho Marx
  • He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house. –Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • I haven’t slept for 10 days, because that would be too long. –Mitch Hedberg
  • Standing in the park today, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets...then it hit me. –Stewart Francis
  • When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them. –Rodney Dangerfield
  • My husband can't stand to see trash and garbage lying around the house – he can't stand the competition. –Phyllis Diller
  • Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time. –George Carlin
  • There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count, and those who can’t. –Unknown
  • I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they'd never expect it. –Jack Handey
  • The company accountant is shy and retiring. He's shy a quarter of a million dollars. That's why he's retiring. –Milton Berle
  • I’m a very tolerant man, except when it comes to holding a grudge. –Robin Williams
  • I saw a bank that said “24 Hour Banking,'”but I don't have that much time. –Stephen Wright
  • Always remember my grandfather’s last words: “A truck!” –Emo Phillips
  • Half of all marriages end in divorce—and then there are the really unhappy ones. –Joan Rivers

Paraprosdokians From Movies and Television Shows

Sitcoms and movies often use paraprosdokians as one-liners for their characters. Shows like Arrested Development and Seinfeld use so many one-liners that they’re regularly quoted long after coming off the air! Check out these funny paraprosdokians from movies and television:

  • If I could say a few words, I would be a better public speaker. –The Simpsons (1989)
  • You know what they say: you can lead a herring to water, but you have to walk really fast or he’ll die. –Golden Girls
  • If you want to receive emails about my upcoming shows, please give me money so I can buy a computer. –Friends
  • “That’s the true spirit of Christmas: people being helped by people other than me.” –Seinfeld
  • When you first entered the restaurant, I thought you were handsome. And then you spoke. –As Good as It Gets (1997)
  • I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious. –The Office
  • Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room! –Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • I hope that someday you'll know the indescribable joy of having children and of paying someone else to raise them. –The Addams Family
  • Her lips said “No," but her eyes said “read my lips.” –Frasier
  • She thinks I’m too critical. That’s another fault of hers. –Arrested Development

Paraprosdokians From Writers

Writers love using wordplay to keep their readers guessing. Clever writers sprinkle paraprosdokians into their descriptions, narration, and dialogue to establish a humorous tone. Here are some examples of paraprosdokians from authors:

  • Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times. –Mark Twain
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

 –Peter De Vries
  • I have the heart of a small boy – in a glass jar on my desk. –Stephen King
  • People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day. –A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
  • The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him. –Joseph Heller, Catch 22
  • The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. –Robert Benchley
  • Gravity is a contributing factor in 73 percent of all accidents involving falling objects. –Dave Barry
  • When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know it is. – Oscar Wilde
  • He’s a writer for the ages…for the ages of four to eight. –Dorothy Parker

Paraprosdokians From Historical Figures

Popular politicians are known for their wit and clever sayings. No matter which political party you vote for, you’ll enjoy these hilarious paraprosdokians from history:

  • Thomas Jefferson once said, “We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.” And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying. –Ronald Reagan
  • You know nothing for sure...except the fact that you know nothing for sure. –John F. Kennedy
  • We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities. –Winston Churchill
  • Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt. –Herbert Hoover
  • People say I'm indecisive, but I don't know about that. –George H.W. Bush
  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. –Benjamin Franklin
  • If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome. –Barack Obama

Having Fun With Wordplay

Paraprosdokians are a great way to layer humor into your writing. But they’re not the only way to use wordplay! Check out these examples of funny puns (or punny funs!) for more literary giggles.