Quote of the Day: ‘Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo…’

Quote of the Day: ‘Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo…’

The truncated sentence in the title, for those unfamiliar with it, is the longest grammatical sentence in the English language in which every word is the same. The sentence in its entirety, with appropriate capitalization and punctuation, is:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

An explanatory paraphrase follows:

Buffalo bison that other Buffalo bison bully, themselves bully Buffalo bison.

The sentence, which illustrates the complexity of human language, is credited to Annie Senghas, a student of linguist Steven Pinker. It came to mind yesterday when I first encountered this sentence:

This country has done more good for more people in the history of our country than any one country, and I would challenge anybody to challenge me on that.

Before you attempt to parse this one, a warning: Don’t waste your time. It’s indecipherable. That that fact should give pause becomes apparent when you learn that the sentence appeared in a speech by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at a town hall meeting in Stuttgart, Germany. A full transcript of the speech is here.

I had hoped to come up with a fitting wisecrack, but am unable to top James Taranto, who featured the sentence in yesterday’s Best of the Web Today. He wrote, “We challenge anybody to make sense of that.”



Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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