For example, I say to a roommate, "I wish I could get caught up on my homework so I can start dating again," to which he replies, "I wish I could get caught up on my dating so I can start doing homework again."

We thought it might be hysteron proteron, but weren't quite satisfied with its definition.

  • 1
    If it does lack a technical term, why not try protero-hysteron? Oct 5, 2017 at 21:13

3 Answers 3


I think the word you're looking for is either "chiasmus" or "antimetabole": Chiasmus Definition

Karl Marx was fond of using it, e.g.

"Herr Szeliga makes mysteries out of real trivialities. His art is not that of disclosing what is hidden, but of hiding what is disclosed."


"The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons"


"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness."



As a term for a type of humor I can't think of it but is could simply be called a "Reversal". Such reversal of ideas or phrases often invite humor or nearly so. Knowing that the grass is always greener on the other side my neighbor spends the afternoons in my yard. Some people make pot roast, I make roast pot. The laughs keep on coming but only just.

If it must be a clever term then perhaps "Switcheroo". Disputes over its true meaning lends itself to innumerable bits of its own.


A similar humorous idea referring to the reversal of lirst fetters is called a "spoonerism". Perhaps this term could be expanded to your desired application?

  • 1
    Yeah, that's kind of what we were thinking. I suppose we could extend the definition. Maybe we can call it a "phrasal spoonerism"? Oct 5, 2017 at 5:34
  • One would have to explicitly mention that the term's meaning was being expanded, or the listener/reader would think it was a misuse.
    – nnnnnn
    Oct 23, 2020 at 22:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.