by Father Mark Goldasich
This past Sunday, I watched as a good number of parishioners’ heads popped up from their missalettes as I ended the Gospel. It was because I chose to do the shorter version — only the parable of the weeds and the wheat — rather than the much longer version.
I certainly didn’t do this to save time or because the entire Gospel reading was not meaningful. It just struck me as, well, too much — parable after parable after parable and then an explanation of the weeds and wheat.
Quite frankly, there were too many images to handle. My mind needed a break; just the first parable was enough for us to chew on. (I hope my parishioners agreed.)
Sometimes, I feel that readers also need a break. We’re inundated with so much information each day that maybe our minds need a little vacation as well. So, in this column, I’m going to simply teach you a new, fun word — that you’ll likely never remember or use in conversations, but it would impress your family and friends — and then give you some examples that you can read all at once or several at a time, however you wish.
Are you ready for the word? OK, it’s paraprosdokian (pronounced “pair-uh-prahz-DOHK-ee-in”). What the heck is that? Well, it’s a figure of speech in which a sentence or phrase takes an unexpected twist that leads to a surprising and often funny ending.
Let’s start with some examples from classic comedians:
• I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. (Groucho Marx)
• When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot, but I always found them. (Rodney Dangerfield)
• 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)
Writers and politicians, as well, love to use paraprosdokians, as this sampling shows:
• The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece, per word or perhaps. (Robert Benchley)
• He’s a writer for the ages . . . for the ages of four to eight. (Dorothy Parker)
• Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. (Benjamin Franklin)
• We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities. (Winston Churchill)
• People say I’m indecisive, but I don’t know about that. (George H. W. Bush)
Here are several more paraprosdokians, not attributed to a particular person. Some would make great bumper stickers:
• Today, a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation toward the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.
• Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
• Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.
• He who laughs last thinks slowest.
• Evening news is where they begin with, “Good evening,” and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
• If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
• Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.
• There are three types of people in the world: Those who can count and those who can’t.
• If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
• Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself type.
• When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
I hope these provided a little humor break for you. I’ll close with these two, particularly relevant to us people of faith:
• A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
• Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car!