06 August 2012

Surprise Endings

O. Henry was one of my favorite writers when I was a child.  I loved the surprise endings in each of his tales.  Almost everyone is familiar with some of his short stories, especially "Gift of the Magi" and "Ransom of Red Chief."  My favorite was "Mammon and the Archer." 

Periodically, I survey my universe and eradicate the negatives, which has frequently led to breakups with gentlemen friends. This tends to correspond with "cleaning out my library" which results in my giving away books which I later wish I'd kept.  Inevitably, I've changed my mind and wanted those stories back, (though not the gentlemen friends), so I've bought numerous copies of the Complete Works of O. Henry through the years. I enjoy his work now as much as I ever did.

William Sydney Porter
aka O. Henry
aka Olivier Henry
William Sydney Porter was born in Asheville, North Carolina, but began receiving recognition for his writing under the pseudonym Olivier Henry while living in Texas, where he was convicted of embezzlement and spent time in prison.  Upon his release, he moved to New York City and began writing under the pen name O. Henry

Since his death at age forty-seven, O. Henry has had several supporters offer evidence that he was innocent of the embezzlement.  There is an O. Henry Museum in his honor in Texas. 

Regardless of  his youthful guilt or innocence, O. Henry remains one of my favorite writers and an inspiration for the unexpected ending.  Needless to say, he immediately came to mind when I discovered PARAPROSDOKIANS.

Sir Winston Churchill
PARAPROSDOKIANS are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and frequently humorous.  Sir Winston Churchill loved them, and I'll bet O. Henry would have, too.

Some examples:

1.  Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2.  The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it's still on my list.

3.  Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4.  If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5.  War does not determine who is right--only who is left.

6.  To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

7.  I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted paychecks.

8.  I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness.

9.  I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

"I'm sexy and I know it!"
10.  Women will never be equal to men  until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.

11.  A clear conscience is a sign of a fuzzy memory.

12.  You don't need a parachute to skydive; you only need a parachute to skydive twice.

13.  I used to be indecisive; now I'm not so sure.

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

15.  Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

16.  Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

17.  Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

18.  I am neither for nor against apathy.

19. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

20.  Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite of the twenty PARAPROSDOKIANS above or perhaps one not listed?  Better yet, make one up and share it!

Until we meet again. . . take care of YOU!


  1. Love them, but I'll never master the spelling.

  2. Janice, it's hard enough to spell, impossible for me to say with my southern accent. Can't wait for your new book!

  3. Well -- some of these sound sort of familiar!


  4. O. Henry was the master of the surprise ending. I also liked H.H. Munro (Saki) for the same reason. Like you, Fran, I still read them today.

  5. Have not read Mammon and the Archer...thanks for the tip. Some of the examples do not strike me as true parapokeymons, but whatever. was it Churchill who said of a political enemy "he is a humble man...with a lot to be humble about?"

  6. "parapokeymons" !! That's awesome, Rob! My kids have been around all summer, and it sometimes seemed as if everything in our house was “Pokeymon-Issue.”

    And, Fran, I want to know why you sent a photographer over to take a picture of me eating a pizza. Oh, wait! That guy's wearing a necklace; I must be mistaken.

  7. I enjoy paraprosdokia, surprise endings, and especially O. Henry, although I can't recall the Mammon story. (Hmm… research required.)

    I didn't know anything about his background though. That's good to share, Fran.

  8. Thanks for the comments. I agree with all, and I have to confess I thought of Dixon when I selected that illustration with the cigar.
    I tried, but I couldn't think of any original sentences with surprise, funny endings. Rob's Churchill comment about being humble reminds of that song line--"Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way."

    A few months ago, we talked about getting boys to read. I spent the day with a van full of boys, all around twelve years old. Took them to see the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. It may not be what we would choose, but they ARE reading. All of them claimed to have read each of the books in that series.

  9. My apologies--Dixon thought he was the guy eating pizza. I chose that particular shot of Churchill because the cigar made me think of Dixon, and I wondered if Churchill ever laughed so hard that his cigar shot out of his mouth and across the room.

  10. I remember the story of man who yelled at his, "You're ignorant and apathetic. Do you even know what that means?"

    The boy answered, "I don't know and I don't care."

  11. O. Henry is one of my favorites, too!


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