Lets Write A Paired Phrase

Following a misfortune, we have certain options. We can turn pessimistic and curse the frequency of bad luck, or we can be optimistic and consider that fate has provided a costly learning experience.

This is the base for an aphorism—a concise expression containing truth or wisdom. The comic writer is trained by necessity to see humor through woes-colored glasses. In this case we look for wit through paired elements, since we already have an obvious optimist-pessimist pairing. Our first effort might read something like this:

A pessimist curses fate; an optimist looks for benefits from every decision.

There is some wisdom in that line but nothing particularly marketable. So we try again, using some repetitive adjectives and subjects.

An optimist sees benefit in every disaster; a pessimist sees recurrence in every disaster.

Still nowhere, but certain possibilities are starting to appear. We not only have antonym pairings ("optimist/pessimist"), but we also have a double antonym pairing with the words for good luck/bad luck ("benefit/disaster"). However, the word disaster seems too exaggerated for our problem. Perhaps, one peg down, calamity, might be more appropriate. We try again:

An optimist sees a benefit in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every benefit.

There's something wrong, now, with the sound and the connotation of benefit. We try other words. Opportunity could work, but not every decision is an opportunity. All of them test us, however, so we go on to test, and finally, challenge. (Ah, that sounds better!) Now we write:

An optimist sees a challenge in every calamity. A pessimist sees a calamity in every challenge.

The result is a double pairing that, in reality, doubles as an aphorism for humor writers. It's good writing and it's good advice, too!

Paired elements are another example of how humor is written backwards—joke first! And whichever medium is used for humor, writers find paired elements increase commercial value. In other words:

The work will get funny, and the funny will get work.


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