This One Word, Repeated 8 Times, Forms a Sentence—and It’s Grammatically Correct

Hint: The word is the name of an animal.

september-2017-FEA-Stuff-About-Words_US170902monkey:goodzone/shutterstock, cities: courtesy david taylor, hand: pretty vectors/shutterstock, deer: panda vector/shutterstock, giraffe: wladd/shutterstock

Let’s break it down, starting with a simple phrase:

Monkeys from Pisa bully deer from London.

OK, admittedly it’s an implausible scenario, but it’s a grammatically fine sentence. In English we can use place names as adjectives, so let’s shorten the sentence a little. (This is the most used noun in the English language. And it’s not what you’d think.)

Pisa monkeys bully London deer.

Now we’ll throw in some giraffes from Paris to even the score with those mean monkeys.

Pisa monkeys, whom Paris giraffes intimidate, bully London deer.

English is peculiar in that you can omit relative pronouns, e.g., “the person whom I love” can be expressed as “the person I love.” Let’s do that to this sentence. (Check out the funniest words in the English language.)

Pisa monkeys Paris giraffes intimidate bully London deer.

september-2017-FEA-Stuff-About-Words_US170902monkey:goodzone/shutterstock, cities: courtesy david taylor, hand: pretty vectors/shutterstock, deer: panda vector/shutterstock, giraffe: wladd/shutterstock

This kind of pronoun removal can be a little more difficult to grasp when written than when spoken. Saying the above sentence with pauses after monkeys and intimidate can help. Now we need to replace both of the verbs, intimidate and bully, with their (admittedly uncommon) synonym, buffalo:

Pisa monkeys Paris giraffes buffalo buffalo London deer.

Again, pauses help keep the meaning in mind: Put a pause after monkeys and the first buffalo. Now we’ll replace all the worldwide place names with the second-largest city in New York State, Buffalo. (That’s Buffalo’s tallest building, One Seneca Tower, below.) (The most complicated word in English is only three letters long. Can you guess it?)

Buffalo monkeys Buffalo giraffes buffalo buffalo Buffalo deer.

You can probably guess what the next step is. But before we replace all the animals with the common name for the American bison, note how the capital letters in the above sentence help you keep the place names separate from the other usages of 
the word. OK, here goes:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

september-2017-FEA-Stuff-About-Words_US170902cities: courtesy david taylor, hand: pretty vectors/shutterstock,buffalo: sloth astronaut/shutterstock

One last thing to note: This exceptional sentence is possible because the plural of the animal buffalo is buffalo, not buffalos, otherwise all the words wouldn’t be identical. English is strange and wonderful!

Popular Videos

Originally Published in Reader's Digest