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Silly Linguistics Magazine Preview – Issue #28

If there’s one thing everyone in the world can agree on, it’s this: English is a very, very weird language.

How weird, I hear you ask? Well, apart from having more exceptions to rules than rules themselves, I’ve recently discovered a sentence that is both nonsensical and grammatically correct. It contains the word “buffalo”… and
nothing else.

How does it work?

The word “buffalo” has three different meanings. It’s the name of an American city; it’s a name of an animal also known as bison; and it’s a verb, meaning “to bully, harass, or intimidate”. So “Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” would
mean something along the lines of “The buffalo from Buffalo buffaloes (bullies) the buffalo from Buffalo” – two bison from Buffalo are in a turf war, and one is harassing the other.


Read more in our magazine Silly Linguistics and get access to all previous issues at no extra charge

1 Comment

  1. tripur

    The noun _buffalo_ can be singular or plural, and in this instance since the verb has no _-s_ at the end, this sentence involves all or many buffalo(oes) from Buffalo.

    On a different note, there is an even longer sentence of this sort: Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo (which includes a relative clause in which the complementizer _that_ has been dropped). That is: Buffaloes that buffaloes from Buffalo are in the habit of buffaloing, those buffaloes also buffalo other buffaloes.

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