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Pavement pedantry: buffaloed?


Sometimes the world feels a little too bleak to be true grammar pedants, so this week we decided to have a little homonym wordplay instead.

A curious peculiarity of the English language, homonyms are words that are said or spelled the same way as another word but have different meanings. And with the same spelling and different meanings, all sorts of (geeky) grammar fun can be had.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a great case in point. First discussed in Dmitri Borgmann‘s Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought in 1967, it’s a great example of how homonyms can buffalo (!).

In this case the homonyms refer to a group of bison (buffalo) from Buffalo (New York), confusing another group of bison (buffalo) from Buffalo (New York). Simple huh?

Similar games can be played with homonyms like police and fish.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Now what’s not to enjoy about that?


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