Saturday, August 16, 2008

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Got it? Don't get it? That is a grammatically correct sentence.

According to Wikipedia, it is...
used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated constructs. It has been discussed in literature since 1972 when the sentence was used by William J. Rapaport, currently an associate professor at the University at Buffalo.[1] It was posted to Linguist List by Rapaport in 1992.[2] It was also featured in Steven Pinker's 1994 book The Language Instinct. Sentences of this type, although not in such a refined form, have been known for a long time. A classic example is the proverb "Don't trouble trouble until trouble troubles you".
The sentence is unpunctuated and uses three different readings of the word "buffalo". In order of their first use, these are

* c. The city of Buffalo, New York (or any other place named "Buffalo"), which is used as an adjective in the sentence and is followed by the animal;
* a. The animal buffalo, in the plural (equivalent to "buffaloes" or "buffalos"), in order to avoid articles (a noun);
* v. The verb "buffalo" meaning to bully, confuse, deceive, or intimidate.

Marking each "buffalo" with its use as shown above gives

Buffalo(c) buffalo(a) Buffalo(c) buffalo(a) buffalo(v) buffalo(v) Buffalo(c) buffalo(a).
Got it now?

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