At the most recent student shindig (some three or four days ago now) my wondrous tenth grade students gifted me with a small buffalo (a stuffed one, to be clear). The occurrence naturally raised some obvious questions, especially considering the note that came with it, as pictured below:
Let me assure you, first off, that the gift was well received. Secondly, you needn’t be concerned about the mental state of anyone involved. The matter actually has a very simple (albeit not entirely straightforward) explanation. And that is this:
Last week, we spent a day in class going over vocabulary words. As I am keen to do every year, I started with one of my favorites: buffalo. Mind: not the noun buffalo, but the verb buffalo – which means to baffle or to intimidate. But the reason it’s my favorite has very little to do with its definition – my fascination rather comes from the fact that it’s a verb.
And as a verb (to intimidate), and also a noun (a bison-like creature), and also an adjective (referring to Buffalo, NY) – it can make some of the best English sentences since Shakespeare:
1) Buffalo buffalo buffalo. [Meaning: Bison intimidate other bison.]
2) Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. [Meaning: Bison from NY intimidate other Bison from NY.]
3) Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. [Meaning: Bison from NY that other bison from NY intimidate – in turn intimidate other bison from NY. (It’s a never ending cycle, I’m afraid to say, and the bison of NY are to be pitied above all other creatures.)]
But (!) – as I tell my students, it gets even better. Because buffalo is not the only noun/verb/adjective all in one. “People” is too. (Joy.)
People as a noun – a group of persons
People as a verb – to populate
People as an adjective – to be naturally comfortable around people
(e.g. “He’s a people person.”)
People people can people Buffalo, NY. (Sadly, they cannot people people, since people is not a place. Have I lost you yet?)
People people Buffalo people buffalo buffalo Buffalo people.
I should mention that mythology gives us Minotaurs, which are awfully close to (dare I say it?) Buffalo-People. But I’ll leave you to work out the grammatical implications of that with your morning breakfast.