Buffalo buffalo

Lydia McGrew posts about something I’ve entertained my children with, which has become a family joke. (Thanks to Josh Dever.) These are perfectly good English sentences:

Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Question (after reassuring yourself that they are all grammatical, and have distinct meanings:) Is there an elegant formula for determining which are grammatical? And can you construct a sentence consisting of more than 14 ‘buffalos’?

3 thoughts on “Buffalo buffalo

  1. How many Buffalo buffalo could a Buffalo buffalo buffalo if a Buffalo buffalo could buffalo Buffalo buffalo in Buffalo?

    Probably explains the four Super Bowl losses.

  2. Dr. Philo:
    I should like to undertake the composition of a sentence using “Buffalo”, either lower or uppe case, more than 14 times, but I need two points of clarification: a. did you use “Buffalo” in the sense of “A member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, founded in 1822 for social and benevolent purposes.” (OED. p. 623)? 2. Did you assign to each use of ‘buffalo’ a unique Godel number?

    I await, with Buffaloism, your response.

  3. Hmm… I just had in mind the city… maybe the order of Buffaloes opens up other possibilities, such as ‘Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo Buffalo buffalo.’ Assuming, of course, that there is a style of buffaloing characteristic of members of the order of Buffalo from Buffalo.

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