That's What They Say
8:52 am
Sun September 22, 2013

How 8 buffaloes in a row form a sentence

It seems hard to believe that if you put 8 buffaloes in a row, you can get a grammatical sentence.

On this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and Professor of English at the University of Michigan Anne Curzan talk about homonyms, or words that sound the same but have different meanings. 

Obviously, saying buffalo 8 times in row does not sound like a sentence. But, technically the sentence is grammatically correct although not readily understandable. It helps to recognize that we are talking about buffalo the animals that happen to be from the city of Buffalo. These buffalo sometimes buffalo as a verb. The verb buffalo can mean to outwit, bully, or trick.

If we substitute buffalo for the words bison and trick, the sentence will go like this:

Buffalo bison that Buffalo bison trick, trick other Buffalo bison. 

The word buffalo at first referred to the animal and later referred to the verb to trick. It is a true homonym since it shares the same pronunciation but has additional meanings.

There are also words or phrases that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings which make for very confusing situations. The other day, Cruzan’s nephew told his grandmother that he sees her way more than his other grandmother. But to his grandmother he said that she weighed more than his other grandmother. Whoops!

Do have more examples of homonyms that have created confusing sentences or situations? If so, we want to hear them! Write them on our Facebook page or comment on our website. 

-Renee Gross

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