The English language can be so confusing. As a copy editor, my task is to correct mistakes in grammar and style. Does this make me an expert? Definitely not.
I recently came across a post that one of my friends shared on Facebook, contending that the follow sentence is grammatically correct:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
To put it bluntly, what the hell? There is no possible way this sentence is correct. I mean, it’s literally the same word, repeated eight times. This is where the loopholes and tricky trickeries of the English language come into play.
There are three meanings of the word “buffalo” used here:
- Buffalo: a proper noun, as in Buffalo, New York
- buffalo: a verb meaning “to bully” or “to harass.”
- buffalo: a noun referring to the animal or group of animals
I suppose the buffalo in Buffalo caused me to do some real thinking. Are there any other convoluted, unnecessarily bizarre sentences that exist in the English language? Here are five more of them:
The photographic memory he had had had had no effect on how well he did on his chemistry midterm.
This sentence makes strategic use of the past perfect, two times. The first use of “had had” is a modifier, and the second instance serves as the main verb of the sentence.
The boat sailed on the river sank.
This is an example of a garden-path sentence, which is a sentence that starts in a way such that a reader’s most likely interpretation will be incorrect; the reader is lured into a dead end. Anyway, the word “sailed” does not serve as the verb in this sentence. There was a boat that was sailed on a river, and it sank.
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
Wait, fruit can fly? This is another example of a garden-path sentence. The first independent clause is there to deceive the reader. Time genuinely flies in a fashion similar to that of an arrow, but the second instance of “flies” is an actual group of insects. It is fairly easy to agree that fruit flies like to consume bananas, hence their name.
Ed had edited it.
This one looks fine when you read it, but try saying this sentence aloud. Are you just making basically the same sound over and over again (“Edədedədədit”)? The sentence sounds extremely awkward, but if we had a copy editor named Ed here at the Daily Cal, we’d probably hear this sentence in real life.
Let’s eat, Grandma!
Ah, the difference a comma makes in this sentence. Without it, we would have this:
“Let’s eat Grandma!”
Don’t do that, kiddos.
I know, English is already hard enough. Maybe you can use these kinds of sentences in your writing assignments. If the class is confusing, retaliate with equally confusing — but still correct — essays.
Contact Andy Chen at [email protected].