In a recent conversation with Cristyn, we somehow came to be talking about the sentence: Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.
This sentence, sometimes with a couple of extra “Buffalo”, is often used as an example of a grammatical sentence which is hard to parse.1 In a less perplexing form, it says: Bison whom bison baffle— they themselves baffle bison.
Part of the trick is that “buffalo” is both singular and plural, but the core of it is that the name of the animal is also a transitive verb.2 So she suggested a pleasant variant: Badgers badgers badger badger badgers.
This got us to brainstorming animals which are transitive verbs. To buffalo and to badger, but also to dog, to hound, to cow, to ape, to parrot, to duck, and to goose.3
The pluralization is trickier for some of these, as in: Geese geese goose goose geese.
Are there any others we missed?
- It’s got a decent Wikipedia entry, which is a strange thing in itself. Are there any other sentences which have their own Wikipedia entries?
- Another tricky bit is that I don’t know “buffalo” as a verb except that it’s used in this sentence. I could only vaguely remember what it means.
- Some other animals can serve as verbs but only in fixed phrases, like to weasel out of. The extra prepositions make the parsing too easy.