BUFFALO!!!!!

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Believe it or not, that sentence is grammatically correct.

Blog reader Niles sent this to me. Nothing has delighted me so much in quite some time. It even has its own Wikipedia page!

The word buffalo has three meanings:

1) the animal

2) the city in New York

3) to bully, confuse or bamboozle

Let’s take a look at the sentence again:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Let’s add in some words to clarify:

Buffalo buffalo whom Buffalo buffalo buffalo also, in turn, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Let’s look at it again, changing the word to bison when it means the animal.

Buffalo bison Buffalo bison buffalo buffalo Buffalo bison.

Now, let’s modify that, changing the word to bully when it’s used as a verb.

Buffalo bison Buffalo bison bully bully Buffalo bison.


Finally, let’s add the words back in:

Buffalo bison whom Buffalo bison bully also, in turn, bully Buffalo bison.


And edited for style:

The bison from Buffalo who are bullied and/or bamboozled by other bison from Buffalo, strangely, bully and/or bamboozle bison from Buffalo as well.


This is the coolest thing ever!

Did you like it?

Thanks, Niles.

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10 responses to “BUFFALO!!!!!

  1. A few months back, I was at the zoo with some friends, and we saw the Western Lowland Gorilla exhibit. We were all pretty amused to learn that this animal’s scientific name is actually gorilla gorilla gorilla! Some in the group were convinced it was a typo, but sure enough, it’s legit.

    Well, once we got done laughing at that, I was reminded of “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Unfortunately there were no buffalo at this particular zoo, Buffalo or otherwise. My friends, however, started to think that I was buffaloing them with my random grammatical trivia. =)

  2. A very fun sentence! I first ran into it in Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, which is a great read.

    LEN

  3. I love it!

  4. Similar to this instance, did you know that one can use “had” 11 times in a row, and it will be grammatically correct?!

    Here is the example:

    Jane, where John had had “had,” had had “had had.” “Had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

  5. Hey Kate!
    I actually heard about that sentence in an undergraduate Psychology of Language class. My professor recited it with the proper grammatical emphasis on the words to show the importance of appropriate stress and pauses. We are all very amused. I wish I had thought of it and told you! Hope all is well. :)
    -Marie

  6. Eric – there’s also Rattus rattus, the Black Rat – though that’s only a single repetition, unlike your fine example. There are probably other, similar names out there. (Are there any taxonomists reading TGV?)

    All – you may also enjoy this:

    “Have it compose a poem–a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism and in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!”
    “And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you’re at it?” growled Trurl. “You can’t give it such idiotic–“
    But he didn’t finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:
    Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
    She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
    Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed.
    Silently scheming,
    Sightlessly seeking
    Some savage, spectacular suicide.
    ~ from The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem (Originally written in Polish and translated by Michael Kandel into English – I have yet to find out anything about the original Polish version of this poem and how much work Kandel put into translating it so exquisitely.)

    LEN

  7. Thank you, Kate! That has to be the best one I’ve ever seen. (My head’s still reeling from trying to read it accurately before reading your explanation.)

    Eric and anonymous – I’m no taxonomist, but bufo bufo (the common toad) and troglodytes troglodytes troglodytes (a wren) spring to mind.

    dlipkin – I was shown your instance at school, as an exercise in punctuation. Have you also encountered the one about the inn sign (which my father taught me when I was only nine years old!)?
    Standing back to look at his newly-painted sign, the innkeeper commented to the signwriter that “The spaces between ‘George’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘Dragon’ are not the same.”

  8. Don’t forget, you can increase the number by one simply by addressing the statement to a buffalo.

  9. I like Chomsky’s “Colourless green dreams sleep furiously” much better!

  10. Barbara Wittmann

    I am inquiring to the photos used in your site. I have written a novel which I have split into 6 books called “Sedan Herd of Kansas” is it possible I can use the photos giving credit to your business?

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