Pieces Of A Wunderkind's Mind

Snippets of Life, Love, Food, Travels, Discoveries, and Whatnot

Feeding Your Inner Geek: A Post Written Especially for Torque

on October 6, 2010

As requested, here’s a detailed explanation of how to interpret the 8-word grammatically valid sentence, “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”, used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs.


The sentence is unpunctuated and uses three different readings of the word “buffalo”. In order of their first use, these are:


* a. the city of Buffalo, New York, which is used as a noun adjunct in the sentence and is followed by the animal;
* n. the noun buffalo, an animal, in the plural (equivalent to “buffaloes” or “buffalos”), in order to avoid articles;
* v. the verb “buffalo” meaning to bully, confuse, deceive, or intimidate.



Marking each “buffalo” with its use as shown above gives the first sentence meaning:


Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) buffalo (v) buffalo (v) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n).


[Let’s substitute the synonym “bison” for the animal “buffalo” and “bully” for the verb “buffalo”, leaving “Buffalo” to refer to the city.]

Thus, bison from Buffalo New York, which other bison from Buffalo New York bully, bully other bison in their community.



There is a second way to interpret the same 8-word sentence if the capitalization is changed.


Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) buffalo (v) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) buffalo (v).

That is, bison from Buffalo bully [other] bison from Buffalo that bison from Buffalo bully.



Note: There is nothing special about eight “buffalo”s. In fact, a sentence with “buffalo” repeated any number of times is grammatically correct.


Here’s one with 10 “buffalo”.


Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) Buffalo (adverb) buffalo (v) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) Buffalo (a) buffalo (n) Buffalo (adverb) buffalo (v).

So, bison who live in Buffalo, and who are bullied [in a way unique to Buffalo <—adverb] by other bison from Buffalo, themselves bully [again, in the way unique to Buffalo] still other bison from Buffalo.


Amazing? Hell, I think so. Was I able to make it clear to you now, Torque? I sure hope so. *crosses fingers*


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2 responses to “Feeding Your Inner Geek: A Post Written Especially for Torque

  1. torque15 says:

    waaaa, thanks so much, dash! the previous article, i couldn’t get past the 3rd buffalo.
    aaahhh, the magic of the english language!

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