The “Buffalo buffalo…” sentence first appeared in Beyond Language by Dmitri Borgmann in 1967. It uses three different meanings of the word buffalo. They are:
- Buffalo, New York
- the animal (bison) where buffalo is the plural form
- the verb buffalo, which means to confuse or intimidate
The sentence translates to mean, “Bison from Buffalo, which other bison from Buffalo confuse, confuse the bison from Buffalo.”
- The first two words, “Buffalo buffalo,” mean bison from Buffalo.
- The next three words, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo,” mean “which other bison from Buffalo confuse.”
- The last three words, “buffalo Buffalo buffalo,” mean “confuse the bison from Buffalo.”
The same type of confusing though grammatically correct homophonous sentences can be made with a variety of words including:
Rose rose to put roes rows on her rows of roses.
Will Will’s will will Will’s will?
If you enjoyed this post, click here to read more about the often hilarious subject of lingual ambiguity. Did you know that adjectives, such as “a cute little brown pig,” are stacked in a specific order? Check out this post and take a stacked adjectives test! Then learn why “Big Bad Wolf” is such a linguistic anomaly!
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