Buffalo Buffalo

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.

11 thoughts on “Buffalo Buffalo

  1. The Buffalo/People plague has struck PNG!
    Alan, you’ve just contaminated an otherwise pure society with this madness.

  2. You are doing way too much to encourage the “English will never be my second language” crowd…..

    On the other hand, you have brought new hope for noteriety to the inhabitants of Toast, North Carolina and Wahoo, Nebraska (the county seat of my book selling territory during the summer of 1976).
    It was only a matter of time before you worked Minotaurs into your blog.
    By the way – what are the odds of someone in Ukarumpa having a spare stuffed Buffalo?

  3. As soon as I find one, I could send you a stuffed DUCK. that way you would have two animals with which to teach this lesson. HA Here’s one for ya, what word can be a verb, noun, adjective, preposition, conjunction, interjection and a verbal auxiliary?
    LIKE: (Fruit flies like a banana; We may never see its like again; People of like tastes agree; The rate is more like 12 percent; Time flies like an arrow; They acted like they were scared; Like, man, that was far out; So loud I like to fell out of bed.) Yeah, I googled it. My mastery of the English language is non-existent.
    And I agree with your dad: ESL people all over the world are cringing right now; and what are the odds…?

  4. I would agree with Hoyt, but Beanie Babies in Papua? The contamination had already begun. What is this world coming to? Moo.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s