paraprosdokian /pair-ə-prohs-DOH-kee-ən/ noun. A figure of speech featuring a surprise turn or ending. A common rhetorical device in comedy exemplified by the one-liners of Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg and Woody Allen. From Ancient Greek pará (against) + prosdokía (expectation). Some examples of paraprodoskians:
“I haven’t slept for ten days…because that would be too long.” (Mitch Hedberg)
“If all the girls at Vassar were laid end-to-end…I wouldn’t be surprised.” (Dorothy Parker)
“There but for the grace of God—goes God.” (Winston Churchill)
“It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” (Woody Allen)
“If I could just say a few words…I’d be a better public speaker.” (Homer Simpson)
“The last thing I want to do is hurt you—but it’s still on the list.” (Steven Wright)
Select Synonyms: riposte, one-liner, witticism, wisecrack.