Somewhat convoluted start to this blog. I’ll be doing some interviews for work of young boys who have brothers in their school, which got me thinking of the song and the line: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” then remembering a very moving essay by a young girl about the care she willingly took of her brother who had various severe handicaps.
Then, being of a writerly mind, I got curious about the phrase itself. Just now, when I should be novel-writing, I poked around and discovered that “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” is an example (as you all doubtless know) of the figure of speech called the paraprosdokian: a structure in which the second part of the line invites re-interpretation of the first part.
The indefatigable Wikipedia offers us time-wasters other examples of the paraprosdokian:
He was at his best when the going was good.” —Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor
You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” — Winston Churchill
“A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” — again (reputedly) Winston Churchill
I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx
“She looks as though she’s been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say ‘when’.” — P.G Wodehouse
Do you have any paraprosdokians to share so we can all waste more time in harmless enjoyment of the English language?