“It Never Hurts to Smile” by Mike Rosen

“Nostalgia Ain’t What it Used to Be”

I am a huge fan of paraprosdokians. In fact, I was enamored with them decades before I learned the word. That’s because I grew up hearing phrases such as the title of this week’s column, which was uttered by the legendary Yogi Berra. Also, from an early age I was a devotee of the philosopher Groucho Marx and believe the very first paraprosdokians I ever heard was the well-known line from Animal Crackers, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in them, I don’t know.”

Groucho, of course, made a career out of such comments, and he was not alone in doing so. The range is from those whose careers centered on humor (Henny Youngman’s, “Take my wife—please” to Mitch Hedberg’s, “I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.”) to those for whom the humor of their utterances served to embarrass them (e.g., George W. Bush’s, “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”)

At its simplest, a paraprosdokian is nothing more than a sentence or statement which has an ending that makes you rethink the beginning. While most have a humorous bent, some are specifically designed to make one think. For example, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left,” or, “The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” See what I mean?

However, to maintain my stance on providing a column designed to make you smile, here follows a list of some of my favorite paraprosdokians. Many of these may be familiar to you, but I’ll wager they will still make you smile.

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

“Do not argue with an idiot. You will be dragged down to their level and be defeated by the depth of their experience.”

“I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

“The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.”

“Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.”

“We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.”

“Knowledge is in knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

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

“A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.”

“Dolphins are so intelligent that within a few weeks of captivity they can train people to stand on the very edge of a pool and throw fish to them”.

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

“You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.”

“The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!”

“Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, especially when you wish they were.”

“Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.”

“I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.”

“When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.”

“To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.”

“Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”

“I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lime and a shot of tequila.”

“Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.”

“A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.”

“Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says ‘In an emergency, notify …’ I write ‘911.’”

“I discovered I react the same way whether I think I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.”

To be sure, though, my favorites are still those made by the notables:

“The saying ‘Getting there is half the fun’ became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines.” — Henry J. Tillman

“A fool and his money are soon elected.” — Will Rogers

“I hope that after I die, people will say of me: ‘That guy sure owed me a lot of money.’” – Jack Handey

“If I am reading this graph correctly, I would be very surprised.” — Stephen Colbert

“There’s a bunch of different crunches that affect the abs. My favorite is Nestle.” — Shmuel Breban

“When I was ten, I beat up the school bully. His arms were in casts. That’s what gave me the courage.” — Emo Philips

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill

“I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” – Will Rogers

In honor of the author of the first one I remember, here are a sampling of paraprosdokians from the fertile mind of Groucho Marx:

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

“She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.”

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read

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

“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

“Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.”

“I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book”

Finally, one of my favorite paraprosdokians is one I heard decades ago and, regrettably, have long since lost its provenance.

“No matter where you go, there you are.”

This week’s Street advertising Smile:

Scroll to Top