Humor in the unexpected

By Sarah Allen - [email protected]

“Expect the unexpected” is an adage so jarringly accurate, it might as well be the cardinal rule for being alive.

Because, whether we like it or not, our lives are littered with change and surprise.

For proof, just look at any typical day: Have you ever overslept? Realized you were out of your favorite cereal? Couldn’t find that one perfect outfit? Forgot to turn off the stove and had to turn around? Get to work late because of an unforeseen traffic jam?

My guess is that, yes, you probably have experienced all of those (in fact, you might have experienced all of them in a single day – probably a Monday). And that’s only the morning.

The good news is that we’ve become experts at adapting and masters of quick-thinking.

In short, we truly understand the element of surprise. And, yes, we know that it is often a source of frustration. But we’ve come to realize that, at times, it can also bring humor. After all, we embrace the unforeseen as much as we condemn it.

To use another old saying: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And one way we’ve done that is with jokes known as paraprosdokians (pronounced as “pair-ah-prahs-doke-ee-ans”).

That mouthful of a word simply describes a statement with an ending that completely changes a person’s initial understanding of it.

Here’s a popular example: I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather… not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

My personal favorite, though, is: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

A quick search of the internet yields many other examples:

• Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

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

• I didn’t say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

• Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?

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

• Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

• You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

• Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

• Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.

• Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

• Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

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

• If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

• Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says “In an emergency, notify,” I put: “A DOCTOR.”

And while most of the paraprosdokians I stumbled across were anonymous, I managed to find a few from well-known figures that can’t go without mention:

• Groucho Marx once said, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”

• And another from Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

• Comedian Steven Wright coined this remarkable observation: “On the other hand, you have different fingers.”

• According to Albert Einstein: “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

• And finally, comedian Shmuel Breban once lamented, “There’s a bunch of different crunches that affect the abs … my favorite is Nestle.”

So, yes, we definitely understand how unpredictable our lives can be – so much so that we like to shake things up even within the same sentence.

And while most disruptions are more likely to bring a scowl than a smile, it’s nice to know that we can always rely on humor to make our tumultuous lives a little more enjoyable.

After all, to use one last paraprosdokian: Change is inevitable … except from a vending machine.

Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.

By Sarah Allen

[email protected]