Weird Word to Love: Paraprosdokian

mitch_hedburg“I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.”
– Mitch Hedburg

I recently happened upon the word “Paraprosdokian“. And while I previously had no idea what the word meant, I did previously love what it defined.

Which is this:

A paraprosdokian /pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/ is 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 reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

The essence of comedy is surprise.

In my kids, this takes the form of poorly-constructed lies.

“Did you eat all of your carrots?” I ask.

“I DID eat them all,” says my daughter.

“Then what are those?”

“Umbrellas!” she says, “Ha ha ha!”

But as we grow up, our jokes do too.

A man walked into a bar.

Ouch.

The beauty of the paraprosdokian is that it requires the listener to revisit the sentence in a new light. It is a very compact form of humor. And for a flash fiction writer like me, compact humor is key.

Here are a few examples:

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

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.

And my favorite:

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

Do you have a favorite paraprosdokian to share?

Guest Post | Comic Relief with Susie Finkbeiner

susie_finkbeinerWhile I would love to claim that the blog today is 100% my work, that would be a lie. You’d see right through it. For one thing, you are smart people. For another, Susie Finkbeiner (who did write today’s post) introduces herself within the post. And I’m glad that she does, because Susie is totally worth knowing, following, and reading. Be sure to pick up her newest book, My Mother’s Chamomile, when it comes out later this month!

***

Here’s a story I hardly ever tell. But I’ll share it with you. Because, you know, you’re special. Super special because you follow Josh Mosey’s ultra fantastic blog.

My grandmothers died within days of each other. It was Spring Break of my sophomore year in college. Worst Spring Break.

Ever.

By the end of the second funeral in a week, I was exhausted. Grieving deeply. Just done.

I looked at my grandma in the casket and lost it. Completely. Fell into a total meltdown.

So, I did what all melodramatic people do in the midst of grief.

I ran.

Hands over my eyes, I ran out of the funeral chapel. Down the hall. Reason caught up with me and said, “So, uh, Susie, where are you going?”

I saw a room with couches. It looked like as good a place as any to sob. So, I went in. Sat down. Cried and cried and cried.

“Susie?” My cousin Eric stood next to me.

“Oh, Eric. It’s just so hard.”

“Um. Yeah.”

“It’s been such a terrible, horrible week.” My voice wobbled with more sobs.

“I bet.”

Now. My family isn’t all that emotionally demonstrative. I mean, I am. But not the men. They’re a bit calmer. Subdued.

But, “I bet”? Really?

“Aren’t you sad?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Eric lowered his voice. “But…um…this isn’t the place for you.”

“That is exactly how I feel, Eric. I don’t feel like I belong in this place of grief, either. No one does. But it’s part of life. You know?”

“I mean, you don’t belong here.” He looked back and forth. “I mean, you shouldn’t be in here. It’s the men’s bathroom.”

I looked up and saw that what he said was true. How had I not seen (or smelled) the urinals on the wall across from me?

***

Death itself isn’t funny. Grief doesn’t tickle. It hurts. Right?

But sometimes funny things happen to us when we grieve.

Someone remembers a story about Grandpa popping out his bridge and scaring all the grandkids.

A child (probably one of those grandkids Grandpa scared) says something WILDLY inappropriate in the middle of the funeral prayer.

We notice that the magazine on Grandma’s side table had Tom Selleck on the cover and our older sister says, “She died a happy woman”. (It was a TV Guide. Yes, that makes me old).

Sometimes, we get a little dose of comic relief.

my_mothers_chamomile

Releasing February 15

My novel My Mother’s Chamomile (releasing February 15 with WhiteFire Publishing) is about a family of funeral directors. Death and grief are their job.

I tried my very hardest to write in some humor. To give my readers a little break. A chance to breathe.

Quirky character here. Physical humor there. Sarcasm and puns and a cranky octogenarian.

I believe that in the middle of mourning, we need mercy.

Sometimes that mercy comes to us as a laugh or a funny story we’ll tell for years.

Do you have any funny funeral stories?

***

Bio: Susie Finkbeiner is a wife and mother living in the beauty of West Michigan. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys playing Scrabble with her husband, zoo trips with her kids, coffee dates with good friends, and quiet moments to read. Susie is the author of Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile, both published by WhiteFire Publishing. Susie is represented by Ann Byle at Credo Communications.

Frugal Grooveshark Writes Like He’s Unshelved – or – Links!

Today’s links are aimed to make your writing life a bit easier and a bit more fun.

My buddy Bob wrote a guest post this week on Roger Colby’s blog about free tools for the frugal writer. He compiled a great list of resources, so rather than spoil the mystery and tell you what they were, here’s the link so you can find out for yourself.

If you are like me, you like to write (or work, or live) with a bit of music in the background. This link is to a site that provides access to full albums and lots of artists as well as radio stations for your favorite music genre. If you like Pandora, you’ll love Grooveshark, which only asks that you see one ad for every three hours of music, unlike Pandora which puts in an ad every three songs.

Are you fretting that you aren’t going to be the next Shakespeare? Maybe you are! If you haven’t tried out the online tool “I Write Like” yet, do it now. By the way, according to the site, this post so far says I’m the next Arthur Clarke. I could see that.

Lastly, if you love books and humor, you will probably enjoy this web-comic. I stumbled across Unshelved a few years ago, and since working in a bookstore is a lot like working in a library, I found it hilarious. Just don’t spend so long looking at it that you neglect your writing!

How I did this week. Also, fun links!It’s been a little while since I did a report card for myself. So this week, I’m going to give myself a B. I might have done better, but I had to take my laptop in to get fixed, and when it got returned, the keyboard didn’t work. As it happens, the guy who fixed it just forgot to reattach the keyboard cable inside the laptop. Easy fix, but it did mean that I didn’t get to write much on the night I went out to write. I did, however, manage to post everyday on my blog. I even have a new contest going! It is easier than the last one too, so don’t be afraid to try it out.

Thanks for reading!