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Learning big word creates a little fun

Way back yonder in Sunday school, the Old Testament gave most of us trouble. As 10-year-olds, we were often stumped when asked to read aloud. Most of us weren’t “hooked on phonics.” We stumbled when we happened upon a biblical name that we couldn’t pronounce.
Few of us like to be put into embarrassing situations, but invariably we’d feel the heat of the it’s-your-turn-to-read spotlight. Without fail, my turn would involve something from I Chronicles like: “The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Eleazar was the father of Phinehas. Phinehas the father of Abishua. Abishua the father of Bukki, Bukki the father of Uzzi, Uzzi the father of Zerahiah. Zerahiah the father of Meraioth.”
That was always a “whew” moment, so I came up with a different approach. I’d just grin and substitute “big word” for “Abimelech” or “Zedekiah” or “Ahithophel” and keep on going.
This week, I came across an unfamiliar big word: paraprosdokian. I had no idea what it meant, but now I understand. It’s “a figure of speech in which the latter part of the sentence is surprising or unexpected.” A paraprosdokian phrase usually takes a humorous twist. Here are some examples:
“War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.”
“You don’t need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.”
“A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.”
“I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.”
“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
“If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.”
“We never really grow up. We only learn how to act in public.”
“Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear to be bright until you hear them speak.”
‘Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.”
“Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, ‘In case of emergency, notify,’ I put ‘doctor.’”
“A bus station is where the bus stops. A train station is where the train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.”
“The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.”
“Don’t argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”
“Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.”
“I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.”
“I didn’t say it was your fault. I said I was blaming you.”
“Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.”
“When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember the fire department usually uses water.”
“I used to be indecisive. Now, I’m not so sure.”
“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”
“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.”
“The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.”
I’d like to give credit. But since these are sayings are from anonymous philosophers, I don’t guess this is plagiarism. So, let’s just call it research about paraprosdokians.
Whew.
If I were reading this aloud, I’d have to mumble “big word.”

Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc. in Athens and represents the 10th Congressional District on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Send e-mail to dnesmith@cninewspapers.com. This column was printed in the Athens Banner-Herald.