“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

No, this is not a blog about ancient dinosaur species or prokaryotic cells. It is about, however, the wonderful world of paraprosdokians. A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech where a sentence or phrase ends unexpectedly, often for comedic or ironic effect. The word comes from the Greek “para” (against) and “prosdokia” (expectation). Below is a sampling of paraprosdokians:

“I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.”

“I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.”

“If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.”

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

“Evening news is when they begin with ‘good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.”

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

“A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.”

Paraprosdokians can be especially effective in advertising. Like a magic trick, it surprises and attracts customers. In the 1950s, Volkswagen Beetle turned the phrase “think big” on its head when they advertised its vehicle with the campaign “Think Small.”

Technology giant Apple Inc. has used many paraprosdokians in its advertising history. In a 1984 Newsweek ad, Apple Inc. advertised new spreadsheet software for Macintosh with the sentence, “Once you’ve answered your questions, question your answers.” In early 2009, the new Mac mini was marketed with the phrase “Small is huge.” When advertising the iPod shuffle in 2005, Apple used slogans like “Give chance a chance” and “Random is the new order”. In 2010, the iPhone 4 was advertised with the slogan, “This changes everything. Again.”

Advertisers use paraprosdokians because they are attention-grabbing, simple, and very effective. By creating a disconnect between the expected and final end of a slogan or phrase, it makes the advertising phrase incredibly memorable.

Hello I must be going.

John Bradley Jackson
Entrepreneur, Professor, Author
Deja New Marketing
© Copyright 2011

About the author
  1. Ryan

    This is great!

  2. Thanks Ryan. Paraprosdokians provide unexpected endings that capture our attention and make us want to buy or connect.

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