From the lyrics to Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone by The Temptations:

Papa was a rolling stone
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died all he left us was alone

What is the the name of this device?

  • It's sheer irony for "left nothing".
    – Centaurus
    Jul 27, 2021 at 20:53
  • Does that include the play on the words "a loan"? Jul 27, 2021 at 20:53
  • As @Cascabel points out, it might be a pun.
    – Centaurus
    Jul 27, 2021 at 20:56
  • 1
    @Cascabel I don't think there is any deliberate pun here.
    – Sid
    Jul 27, 2021 at 20:57
  • 2
    A deliberate garden path sentence played for surprise. Powerful. Jul 27, 2021 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


A paraprosdokian (/pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists such as Groucho Marx. ...

Etymology "Paraprosdokian" comes from the Greek "παρά", meaning "against" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation".



Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation.

"Where there's a will, I want to be in it," is a type of paraprosdokian.

Etymology: From παρά + προσδοκία.


I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.
For the origin of this gem, see quoteinvestigator.com

He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house.
"Zsa Zsa Gabor on her fifth husband, quoted by Ned Sherrin in Cutting Edge, 1984". The Guardian

  • 2
    Well, that was certainly unexpected. 🙂
    – user205876
    Jul 27, 2021 at 22:06
  • @GlobalCharm - You must be new to this site.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 27, 2021 at 22:20
  • @GlobalCharm Did I do something verboten?
    – DjinTonic
    Jul 28, 2021 at 18:47
  • 1
    @DjinTonic. I was speaking in jest. The answer itself is first rate.
    – user205876
    Jul 28, 2021 at 20:25
  • @GlobalCharm Thank you.
    – DjinTonic
    Jul 28, 2021 at 20:39

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