Monday, March 11, 2013

None Of Your Business

I wish I was one of those people who could come up with witty come-backs in a time appropriate manner. Verbal zingers don't pack quite the same punch when they are delivered fifteen minutes later to an empty room. I admire people who have a ready response to annoying people, as long as what they say isn't hurtful or an attack on the person's character. The fact that I was so excited when I discovered there is a word for a certain kind of zinger I am particularly fond of says one of two things about me. Either I am a lover of the English language or I need to get out more often.

A paraprosdokian is when the latter part of a sentence or expression doesn't match what would be expected from the first part of the sentence or expression in a way that makes you rethink what is actually being said. Here are some examples:


  1. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  2. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  3. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  4. And this might be my all-time favourite. I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.


While I was having a fun half hour Googling paraprosdokians (having a name to put to something can be very useful), I was reminded of some witty sayings used by some friends of mine. These friends have, like us, adopted several children each. One of the things you quickly learn when you adopt is some people seem to feel they have a right to know the life history of the child you have adopted. Most adoptive parents are happy to share the story of their adoption journey, especially with others who are considering adoption themselves. But giving details about their adopted child's birth family and circumstances are Out Of Bounds.

When I would be confronted with this kind of thing I would just stammer incoherently and try to change the subject. One friend of mine was much quicker verbally than me, and when people would cross the line he would smile, look them in the eyes and say, "No thanks, I just had a banana." Twenty years later that zinger still makes me smile.

Another friend has four girls of varying skin tone. She was approached multiple times by people demanding to know if "those girls" all had the same father. The implication was my friend was... well, I can't come up with a blog friendly term, but I'm sure you get the idea. The first couple of times it happened she would, through gritted teeth, explain that her daughters were all adopted. One day she had had enough. When the question was asked she gave what was technically speaking an honest answer, and she stuck with that answer every time she was asked the question after that. With a straight face she would look the person in the eyes and calmly reply, "No, they all have different fathers."

I hate to have a post without a picture, so here goes. My latest knitting project.




It's a foot. More body parts to come...

22 comments:

  1. Cute foot ;) I am never quick or witty enough when I need to be and often think of something I should have said, HOURS later! lol

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    1. Isn't that frustrating when you think of something witty, but the moment has long since passed to say it?

      Hopefully the foot will have adjoining parts in the not too distant future. :-)

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  2. Ah, the famous esprit de l'escalier - a perfect comeback that only occurs to you when you're already down the stairs! I hate that feeling so much that sometimes I try to anticipate things people might say to me so I can think of comebacks in advance. Of course, this only means I end up arguing heatedly with myself, usually for no reason!

    Can't wait to see what that foot ends up attached to!

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    1. I like your plan of thinking of comebacks as a sort of advance preparation to possible things people might say. It wouldn't work for me though, because by the time the moment came to use the comeback I would have forgotten what it was.

      Hopefully the foot attaches to a leg and then a body, but there are never any guarantees with my knitting. It could just end up as a useless limb ornament to hang from next year's Christmas tree. :-)

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  3. paraprosdokian.... what a brilliant word, wherever did you come across that? It could be a name for a medication, I think it would quite suit an anti depressant!!

    On the subject of adoption, i am adopted myself and found it extremely amusing as a child when "strangers" would say that i looked a good mixture of my adopted parents, always exchanged a knowing smile with my Mum!!

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    1. I found out about the word on another blog this past weekend. Isn't it great? It does sound a bit like a name of a med. "Read four paraprosdokians twice daily. You should see improvement in mood within three days." Ha!

      That is a wonderful memory you have of sharing those knowing smiles with your mom. My three adopted children are Korean, Thai and Romanian Gypsy, so we never got those kind of comments. But we certainly got lots of other ones, which some day I will have to blog about. :-)

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  4. HAHAHAHAHAHA! OMG! #2 and #4 are officially going to be part of my daily conversation. :-D

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  5. #3 is my favorite bumper sticker. I love that type of humor. I don't love pushy people rudely asking questions that go too far. My results in dealing with those people are mixed. When I know I'll be encountering one of "them", I'm able to respond quickly...almost as if I've geared up for thinking that way, even though I had no idea what the questions would be. But when I run into someone like that just randomly, it usually catches me off guard and my brain doesn't come through in time to respond the way I'd wanted to. Darn it!

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    1. #3 is hilarious! I haven't actually seen it as a bumper sticker. Here is a random fact that has nothing to do with this post. Did you know bumper stickers are way more common in the US than they are in Canada? Yours are funnier than ours too.

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  6. PS - Last night my wife found an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show on tv. Laura was mad at Rob and he had to explain what happened (via flashbacks). When he was done...

    Rob: Do you still love me?
    Laura: Of course I do!
    Rob: Are you still mad at me?
    Laura: Of course I am!

    Come to think of it, I shouldn't let my wife watch those shows. She'll use the knowledge she gains against me! :)

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    1. I haven't thought about the old Dick Van Dyke show in ages, but the minute I read this a picture of him tripping came to mind. :-)

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  7. What does it say about me that the only example I could think of was from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog ("That is a great shirt. For me to poop on!"). I often have the problem of getting in my perfect zinger and then feeling really bad about the thing I just said. I guess there are no winners in those conversations.

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  8. You have reminded me of my sister-in-law who had three home-made girls with just the one husband, who turned out to be one blonde, one redhead and one brunette. She took to saying, when she could see people trying to remark on them politely "I wish they wouldn't keep changing the milkman!"

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    1. It sounds like your sister-in-law has the same sense of humour as my friend. :-)

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  9. I have an acid tongue, so I have the opposite problem: I need to tone down my responses sometimes because they can be as rude as the question asked. So my standard response to nosy questions is "Why do you ask?" or "May I ask why you need to know?" Most folks at that point know they've gone WAY over the line. I've only had a couple dim-bulbs attempt to tell me why they need to know, to which I respond with, "Hmm, that's a curious question. So, how about that new Pope over in Rome?"

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    1. I am envious of your ability to come up with a response "in the moment." I think part of my problem is I am a coward. I don't think I would have enough courage to even ask someone being rude why they were asking the question. Stammering and changing the subject is the best I can do.

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  10. I am being given odd looks by my husband who can't work out why I'm laughing so much!

    Paraprosdokian, 2. and 3. have all been committed to memory.

    People do ask the most intrusive questions. My pet hate is the question disguised as a statement, as if by pointing out the obvious the asker is guaranteed an explanation that will satisfy there curiosity. The one I hear most is 'You have a lot of dogs', said in such a way that a pause is left at the end for me to fill. And I'm hopeless at the zinger, mine is a slow burn humour. Lately I've taken to saying, 'Oh I don't know, six isn't so many, I know a woman with over thirty', which isn't remotely funny but does tend to deflect the attention. And yes, I do know of a local woman with 32!

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    1. I rarely get the question disguised as a statement. Instead, it is the blunt,rude and intrusive question. I wonder if that is a cultural difference between Britain and the US/Canada. Interesting!

      I hope you explained to your husband why you were laughing. :-)

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