That had a completely different ending than I was expecting...
March 14, 2014 5:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of sentences/phrases that have a completely different meaning at the beginning of the sentence than they do by the end. The best example I can find is this example of Happy Ending's that sounds completely inappropriate until he finishes the verse. Is there a name for this? Is this a literary device? (I thought it might have been a type of irony at first, but I'm not certain.)
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *Happy Ending's Dave.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:51 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Garden path sentence.
posted by empath at 5:57 AM on March 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Lit's Miserable plays on the exact same word.
posted by winna at 6:01 AM on March 14, 2014

Best answer: Also, Paraprosdokian is similar.
posted by empath at 6:08 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

A classic example is Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana, which, as empath says, is an example of a garden path sentence.
posted by cincinnatus c at 6:25 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Oscar Brand's "A Clean Song."
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:27 AM on March 14, 2014

Or Kip Addotta's Wet Dream.
posted by winna at 6:39 AM on March 14, 2014

Best answer: Douglas Adams was a master of grammatical misdirection. Just crack open the Hitchhiker's Guide, or Dirk Gently's Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul.

"He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea."
posted by General Tonic at 6:51 AM on March 14, 2014


"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:08 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another one you might enjoy.
posted by Gev at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2014

Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssss Suisie had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to heaven
And the steamboat went to

Hello, operator
Give me number nine
And if you disconnect me
I'll kick in your

Behind the 'fridgerator
There was a piece of glass
Miss Susie sat upon it
And it cut up her

Ask me no more questions
Tell me no more lies
The boys are in the bathroom
Zipping down their

Flies are in the meadow
Bees are in the park
Miss Susie and her boyfriend
Are kissing in the D-A-R-K D-A-R-K

Dark* is like a movie
A movie's like a show
A show is like a TV show
And that is all I know!

I grew up in the south, and the regional variant the kids on my playground sang ended "D-A-R-K D-A-R-K darker than the black boy who is chasing after me!"

And it's not quite the same, but you may enjoy Phil Harris' The Thing.
posted by phunniemee at 7:15 AM on March 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssss Suisie had a steamboat

There was a subverted rhyme/mind rhyme AskMe previously.
posted by zamboni at 7:49 AM on March 14, 2014

Miss Susie is playing on what you expect, but just refuses to state it - it doesn't provide a new interpretation. "It cut up her ask me no more questions" is not a real sentence. I also don't really see how Douglas Adams is following this pattern. The examples on the page empath linked to are what I would think match the meaning-shift parsing issue you're talking about:

The old man the boat.
The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families.
The government plans to raise taxes were defeated.

These cases are mostly where nouns turn out to be verbs, and adjectives turn out to be nouns...
posted by mdn at 7:50 AM on March 14, 2014

Would zeugmas be what you're looking for? These are sentences where a verb (usually) modifies two or more words, each of which changes the meaning of the verb:

" . . stain her honour, or her new brocade" - Alexander Pope
"I closed my eyes and my bank account" - Liz Phair
"They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap" - Lewis Carroll
posted by bibliowench at 8:14 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

A previous (and fun) related question; zamboni suggests "subverted rhyme" and "mind rhyme" as possible answers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:56 AM on March 14, 2014

Best answer: If you dig this stuff, you may enjoy the work of SJ Perelman, who used to write jokes for Groucho Marx and essays for the New Yorker.

"Our meal finished, we sauntered into the playroom and Diana turned on the radio. With a savage snarl, the radio turned on her..."
posted by Diablevert at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2014

Not quite the same thing, but you might enjoy The Man Who Melted Jack Dann. And some of them exhibit the same sort of behavior you're looking for (e.g., The First Wives Club Olivia Goldsmith).
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! I think it's closer to bathos and paraprosdokian than to a a garden path sentence or zeugma, altho I liked reading about those as well.

What did Phil Harris find? What is "the thing"????????
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:14 PM on March 15, 2014

How about Shaving Cream?
posted by oxisos at 12:24 AM on March 16, 2014

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