06 October 2011

On Anapodotons

My previous post on the phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” got me thinking; when does a saying get so engrained in popular society that we are able to cut off the ‘punchline’ and still get our point across?
You see it all the time; we shorten “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” to a simple “When in Rome..”. I think this one makes sense, as generally it is a prelude to an act preformed as the ‘Romans’ (whoever they might be in this case) would do it.
You’re holding on to a cooked and skewered insect in a Chinese market, and before you pluck up the courage to pop it in your mouth and munch on the tasty exoskeleton, you give the somewhat tentative remark “When in Rome”, then pop it in. Crunch!
It makes sense; if only for dramatic effect.
It can create confusion however, as if we don’t know the origins of the saying, we can’t always apply it correctly; hence the difficulties of a certain Mr Ron Burgundy.
A quick foray into Wikipedia informs me that, as is always the case, there is a name for this kind of thing:
anapodoton [noun] (uncountable)
  1. (uncountable, rhetoric) The rhetorical device in which a main clause is implied by a subordinate clause, without mention.
Other examples include: if looks could kill [I’d be a dead man]; if pigs had wings [they could fly]; if the hat fits [wear it]; if the mountain won't come to Muhammad [the mountain shall come to Muhammad]; if the shoe fits [wear it]; when the cat's away [the mice will play]; and where there is a will [there’s a way].

Sometimes we even omit the first part of a saying, like how the often confused saying “If that’s what they think, they have another think coming” is shortened to simply “they have another think coming”. Though more often than not, people think the saying is actually “another thing coming”, because they haven’t learnt it through a shortening of the original saying, but rather some cultural form of Chinese whispers.

It makes me wonder: are there any other sayings out there ripe for anapodotonisation?

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