Friday, July 29, 2022

Escher Sentences!

I finally have a term for the kind of sentence which forms one of my favorite types of jokes: "Escher Sentence".  Why do I not appreciate puns but do love these?  An Escher sentence seem to make sense when you first hear it, but on second examination deso not. 

The classic example seems to be: "More people have been to Berlin than I have."

Back in the day, Lily Tomlin made such a line famous on "Laugh In". As the telephone operator, Ernestine, she would acost a customer by asking, "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?"

These sayings are also called "mixed idioms" and, in fact, are sometimes caused by confusing two idioms or by mixed metaphors.  

I really like "We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it” and "Don’t change horses in midsentence" or "Don't change sentences in midstream."

At other times they are formed with malapropisms. The word comes from a character in a Sheridan play named "Mrs. Malaprop". (In French "mal à propos" means "inappropriate".)  

Here's a quote from an obituary by Daniel E. Slotnik in the "New York Times" in 2020.  "Norm Crosby, the comedian known as the master of malaprop because he spoke from his diagram and related many funny antidotes, often to a standing ovulation, died on Saturday in Los Angeles."

When you are learning a second language it is easy to create an Escher sentence, sometimes resulting in gales of laughter from your listener.  It can happen when choosing the wrong word or by adding a phrase or clause to a sentence incorrectly.  Don't feel bad.  People will view you as creative!

And if you like Escher art, here's a link.

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