Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Josh_

Senior Member
U.S., English
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

This is a fully correct grammatical sentence. Can you figure why it is a grammatically correct sentence and what it means?

I was surfing the net and came across this and wanted to share it with you all. It took me about five minutes, but I figured it out. This sentence makes use of the different uses of the word buffalo, reduced relative clause, and lack of punctuation.

The different uses of the word:
Buffalo – proper noun, a city in the state of New York.
buffalo – a large mammal.
buffalo – a verb meaning ‘to intimidate’, or ‘to confuse.’

With those definitions you may be able to figure it out.

Another clue is adding a punctuation mark – in this case a comma between the two uses of a verb:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Adding helping words:

(The) Buffalo buffalo (that other) Buffalo buffalo (do) buffalo, buffalo (other) Buffalo buffalo (in turn).

It also helps to look at a another sentence of the same structure:

Forum members forum newcomers intimidate irritate forum moderators.

So, the meaning of the sentence is:

The buffalo from the city of Buffalo that other buffalo from (the city of) Buffalo intimidate, intimidate other buffalo from (the city of) Buffalo in turn.

I found this here on wikipedia:

There are better explanations of the buffalo sentence there that will help to explain the sentence as well as parse schematic. As well as English these types of "play-on-word" sentences exist in other languages that are listed below if you scroll down.

They give other English examples which after thinking about I figured out, but there is one I have not been able to make sense of yet:

John, where Bill had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had the teacher's approval.

Tom, when playing a game of Scrabble against Dick who, whilst pondering the degree of legitimacy the last word that Harry (who had had 'had') had had had had, had had 'had', had had 'had'. Had 'had' had more letters, he would have played it again.
If anybody figures it out and can think of a way to explain it I would be much obliged.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The multi-had sentence has appeared here twice before.
    Now, there's another challenge - where are the threads - searching for had isn't much fun :D
     
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