Sunday, April 20, 2008

Homonymania!

Two weekends ago my good friends WALKER and WEST came for a surprise visit all the way from Charlottesville, Virginia. Amongst other things, WALKER came bearing the recently-gained knowledge of two sentences that seemingly repeat the same word over and over, but still form grammatically correct statements.

These sentences are:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

and

James, while John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher.

I am not here to explain the correctness of these sentences, but a quick reading of the Wikipedia article on each can help to uncover their meanings.

I immediately found these sentences both amusing and highly mind-blowing, and now, 15 days later, while working in the library I have fashioned two of my own homonym experiments/sentences.

I am not as proud of this first one, but it was my initial attempt so I will include it here:
Art and Art, art Art and Art's "arts" art?

This sentence engages the word "art" as a verb which is synonymous with "are", name and in the noun form that refers to poetics, painting, sculpture, et cetera. This sentence presupposes that jazz musician, Art Blakey and graphic novelist, Art Spiegelman are discussing the music of Everclear's Art Alexakis and Art Garfunkel of Simon and Garfunkel. Speaking to Spiegelman, Blakey speculates the authentic artistic value of the two popular musicians' works.

Here is my second example in which I take much more pride. It is a posed question with an immediate, complete sentence answer.

Can Can can can-can Caan can can?
Can can can can-can Caan can can.

The different forms of the word "can" that I use here refer to the verb, meaning "to be able to", the German kraut-rock band, the high-kicking dance, the slang verb that means to figuratively trash or negatively criticize and the actor James Caan who is known for his roles in Elf (2003) and Misery (1990).

For the explanation of the question I will replace the verb with its meaning, "to be able to", the band, Can with the band, Canned Heat, the dance with "the macarena", the other verb with the word "trash" and the actor, James Caan with actress, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Are Canned Heat able to trash the same macarena that Jamie Lee Curtis is able to?
Yes, Canned Heat are, in fact, able to trash the same macarena that Jamie Lee Curtis is able to.

So, because the word "can" is very ambiguous and has multiple meanings, this one word can serve to populate an entire sentence and still be grammatically correct and make complete sense.




1 comment:

Ashurei said...

Don't forget Cannes! Which is also pronounced "can."