Sunday, November 21, 2010

An old dog learns a new word

Today’s ‘Positive and Optimistic Sunday’. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I think I know a fair bit about the English language. Including its idiocyncrasies and grammatical nuances. I’ve read Don Watson’s books [1] Weasel Words and Death Sentence [2]’ also Lyn Truss’s book Eats, Shoots and Leaves [2]. I own a copy (albeit superseded) of the Australian Government’s Style Manual [3]. I frequently consult my 2,129-page copy of Webster’s Dictionary. I have a dictionary and thesaurus on my iPod Touch. I listen to the podcasts and receive email bulletins from Grammar Girl (pictured) [4]. I often discuss grammar with Sweetheart Vivienne. And we frequently tackle crosswords. So last Thursday I was nonplussed by this email from my darling sister Sue [5]. Paraprosdokian sentences? Never heard of them. A quick google search [6] revealed much. Coming from the Greek words meaning ‘beyond expectation’ [7], a paraprosdokian’s exactly as Sue’s email defines it. I’ve heard many of them in my lifetime; but until last Thursday I didn’t know their category name. Of course I should’ve been more humble about my knowledge of English. Indeed the more I know, the more humble I should be, e.g. Wikipedia says some paraprosdokians create a syllepsis [8] – also known as a symantic zeugma [9]. Yikes. At least I know more about English now than I did last Wednesday. A positive and optimistic notion? Sure.
P.S. h/t darling sister Sue.

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