Paraprosdokianism in medicine?

Dr. Willey

A paraprosdokian sentence is a figure of speech in which the concluding part of a sentence or idiom takes the reader or listener off guard.  The first part of the sentence seems to inhabit normalcy or be full of conventional wisdom while the concluding part, in a surprising or unexpected way, is not what you anticipated.

This causes the reader or listener to reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect by comedians.  This is best illustrated by the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, which gave us the perfect example: I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

I have also been made very aware of its use while behind the closed door of the examination room.  Here are a few examples for you to ponder:  If I agreed with the way you eat, we’d both be wrong.  You don’t need a good cardiac surgeon to have a heart attack.  You need a good cardiac surgeon to have a heart attack twice.  Going to the doctor does not make you healthy anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Here’s a few of my favorites paraprosdokianisms:

I did not say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one heart attack?

The voices in my head may not be real, but they seem to have really good ideas!

And finally, one of my favorites: A clear conscience is usually the first sign of dementia.

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