Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

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PN = proper noun
N = noun
V = verb
NP = noun phrase
RC = relative clause
VP = verb phrase
S = sentence

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" is a sentence that uses correct grammar. It is often used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create confusing, hard-to-understand sentences.

It has been talked about since 1967, when the sentence was used by Dmitri Borgmann in his book Beyond Language.[1] Later, in 1972, the sentence was used by William J. Rapaport. Rapaport is a professor at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York.[2][3]

The sentence does not have punctuation. It uses three different meanings of the word "buffalo". They are:[4]

It can be broken down to "Buffaloa buffalon Buffaloa buffalon buffalov buffalov Buffaloa buffalon", where "a" is adjective, "n" is noun, and "v" is verb. It means, "Bison from Buffalo, which other bison from Buffalo confuse, confuse the bison from Buffalo."

  • The first two words, "Buffalo buffalo," mean bison from Buffalo in the same way that "Florida man" means a man from Florida.
  • The next three words, "Buffalo buffalo buffalo," mean "which other bison from Buffalo confuse." We don't need the word which in the original sentence, just like how "a man which the woman loved" means the same thing as "a man the woman loved."
  • The last three words, "buffalo Buffalo buffalo," mean "confuse the bison from Buffalo."

Other words can be used to make sentences like this one. These include police, fish, and people. For example, "Fish fish fish fish fish". Other times, similar words that are spelled differently can be used: "Foul fowl foul fowl foul foul foul fowl".

There is a city named Police in Poland. It is therefore possible to form a sentence "Police police Police police police police Police police", meaning "Cops from Police, whom other policemen from Police, Poland, are watching, watch yet other cops from Police, Poland".

Why it is confusing to read[change | change source]

The sentence is very confusing because:[5]

  • Most people do not use the word "buffalo" as a verb.
  • The plural form of the noun "buffalo" can be "buffaloes" or "buffalo". In this sentence, the second form is used, which is spelled the same way as the verb.
  • There is no punctuation.
  • Having no words such as that or which makes the sentence harder to follow.
  • The only distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters is the use of capital B whenever Buffalo is used as a noun or an adjective. Lowercase b is used as a verb.
  • By saying the word over and over again, it is confusing to read, as most words can't be used like the buffalo sentence.

References[change | change source]

  1. Borgmann, Dmitri A. (1967). Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought. New York, NY, USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. OCLC 655067975.
  2. Rapaport, William J. (2012). "A History of the Sentence 'Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.'". University at Buffalo Computer Science and Engineering. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  3. Rapaport, William J. 19 February 1992. "Message 1: Re: 3.154 Parsing Challenges Archived 2009-10-19 at the Wayback Machine". linguistlist.org. Retrieved on 14 September 2006.
  4. Andrew Swerlick (2008). "What a Herd of Confused Bison from Upstate New York Can Teach Us About Our Language". The Emory Wheel. Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  5. Rapaport, William J (February 19, 1992). "Message 1: Re: 3.154 Parsing Challenges". linguistlist.org. Archived from the original on 2009-10-19. Retrieved 2009-03-30.