The Steno Bunny

“Paraprosdokian” is a figure of speech that surprises the reader/listener.  The beginning of a paraprosdokian leads you to a particular train of thought, but the ending turns the meaning to an entirely new direction.

Here are a couple of classic paraprosdokians:

That’s no lady; that’s my wife.  Rodney Dangerfield

I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.  Bill Hicks

I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.  Will Rogers

In each instance, the ending is a surprise that makes you completely reevaluate the entire thing.

In a similar way, if steno students hear “ladies and …,” they are likely to pause in anticipation of a common phrase such as “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

But there are other possible phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen of the Senate” or “ladies and gentlemen of the prospective jury.”    If you pause on purpose so that you can use a phrase, you will often be wrong; and when you are wrong, pausing will put you needlessly behind.

But what about when you guess correct?  Don’t you get a big benefit from using the phrase?

Naaaah.  That’s rookie thinking.  If you are caught up and you pause to hear a phrase, the best you can hope for is that you can use that phrase to make up for the time you lost when you paused.

For phrase usage, a court reporting student needs only one rule:  Only use phrases if you recall the outline before it is time to begin stroking the phrase.

We play a speed game.  Any pausing for any reason is wrong.

Unless you are the Steno Bunny.

(Pause for effect)

Then  you have four paws.

Combat Stenography — Sacrificing a Pawn

Situation:  You are in danger of dropping a ton of words.  You are behind, and you must catch up Toot!immediately.  The next words spoken are “At that exact time, I didn’t really have a lot of options.”

Solution:  Drop “exact,” “really,” and “options.”  This leaves you with the three easy phrases “at that time,” “I didn’t have” and “a lot of.”

Result:  You lose three points instead of a large amount.  You gain nine points with three easy strokes.  You are no longer behind.

It would be wonderful if these exact circumstances showed up each time we fall behind.  Sadly, they won’t.  But if we keep our eyes open, we can minimize the damage caused by falling behind.