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From a recent conversation at work:

"Whoever is responsible for interface design at Microsoft should be fired."

(some pause)

"Out of a cannon."

(further pause)

"Into the sun."

Each subsequent phrase modifies the meaning of the one before it a little bit more.

Whoever is responsible for interface design at Microsoft should be fired.

(lose their job)

Whoever is responsible for interface design at Microsoft should be fired. Out of a cannon.

(Farcically, placed into a cannon and ejected out of it)

Whoever is responsible for interface design at Microsoft should be fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.

(Maximum absurdity: The errant developer is now consigned to death by plasma.)

We've added two phrases, drastically and absurdly changing the meaning of the original sentence.

My questions:

  1. Are there other examples, or a name, for this type of construct?

  2. Is this form of adding sentences. Like this. And this.

    ...considered legal English when used for emphasis or example?

  • Legal as in what the courts allow? Or what? – Arm the good guys in America May 24 '17 at 18:39
  • Acceptable according to norms of usage? Cmon. – Mikey T.K. May 24 '17 at 18:44
  • You might want to search the site for 'complete sentence'. See english.stackexchange.com/questions/25900/… for one-word sentences – Arm the good guys in America May 24 '17 at 18:49
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    in japan there is a traditional art form of storytelling called "rakugo". i'm told that it depends heavily on this sort of strategy - say something that leads your listener to think you have one thing in mind, then say something else that changes the meaning. you can do this easily in japanese (or german), because of the language structure - the verb come at the end. – user175542 May 24 '17 at 20:44
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One "misleading" thing about your transcription is that you have inserted periods, but these are really pauses (as you also note).

The technique here is a "comedic pause," often called a "pregnant pause." It is a crucial feature of most comedy, but some were particularly good at it. Gene Wilder especially.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFq9AbVZSbo @0:37 takes a simple (possibly even dumb) line and turns it into comedy.

Your particular example may also be a form of "garden path," but it doesn't really suffer from the confusion that is usual in such constructions.

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