For instance, the quote from Douglas Adams:

“In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”

Where he takes a common phrase ([in the past] men were real men, women were real women) and extends it to small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, thus making the list seem absurd by appending an element to it that jars with our previous impression.

Is there a word or phrase (ancient or modern!) to describe the method of making a list humorous by including an element that fits the pattern of the others syntactically ("X were real X") but not thematically?

I was thinking of "epizeuxis", but that doesn't seem right, as I'm thinking of when a pattern is repeated, not a single word or phrase.

  • Nice question. It reminds me of "Reductio ad absurdum" just exploding instead of imploding.
    – Gary
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:09
  • 1
    In rhetoric terms, probably an anaphora - Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.
    – user66974
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:09
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    @Josh61 I like it. Maybe anaphoric sarcasm?
    – bib
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:57
  • @Josh61 Not really an anaphora, as it's not a reptition of words - can anaphora be used for a reptition of syntax? I like the term "garden path sentence" as well, but that implies that ambiguity in meaning, which isn't there.
    – Benubird
    Jul 29, 2016 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


One of the senses of spoof is to imitate something in order to make fun of it.

  1. imitate (something) while exaggerating its characteristic features for comic effect.

Google "define spoof"

a funny and silly piece of writing, music, theatre, etc. that copies the style of an original work:

Cambridge dictionary spoof



I see Gary has commented "Reductio ad absurdum" but you could simply use "reductive" since each additional element in your statement reduces its impact.

Another example: "The boat sailed" is a strong statement but it is reductive to add "on the sea, which is made of water."

"I read the book..... by turning the pages, looking at the printed symbols, and interpreting them into words using my brain"

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