Recently a colleague sent me an email which said “since you’re a lexiphile, you might like these phrases and use them in a future blog”. He included a list of 10 punny sentences like this one:
Police were called to the daycare center, where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
He was right – I loved the list and was instantly inspired to write about it.
However, I had never heard of the term lexiphile and I couldn’t find it in a dictionary. It’s obvious what the word should mean: lexi comes from the Greek lexikos which means ‘of words’ while the Greek philia means love or affection.
Lexiphile is a lover of words – an alternative term for the one I’ve always used: logophile. By either name, it’s an apt description of me. After all, my motto is ‘words matter’.
But since I’m guilty of being a logophile/lexiphile, I couldn’t stop there. These phrases should have a dedicated term for them. Luckily, they do; they are called paraprosdokians:
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word.
Here are five of my favorite paraprosdokians:
- The batteries were given out free of charge.
- You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.
- He had a photographic memory; although it was never developed.
- When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she would dye.
- Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
If you enjoy these, there are plenty more here.
What’s your favorite paraprosdokians?