List of homophonous phrases
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A list of homophonous phrases.
- Badgers badgers badger badger badgers, by Boris Johnson in Have I Got News For You
- Dogs dogs dog dog dogs
- Who polices the police? - The police police. So, who polices the police police? Police police police police police police. (see Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
- A joke, in which a conductor, when asked how long will the train stay at the station, answered "From two to two to two two" (from 2 minutes to 2 O'clock until 2 minutes past 2 O'clock or 1:58 to 2:02). When asked the same question about a second train that will be at the station for the same period, he answered "From two to two to two two, too".
- "Wouldn't the sentence 'I want to put two hyphens between the words Fish and And, and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign' have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, and after Chips?" (This is also an example of the use-mention distinction.)
- In the town of March in Cambridgeshire, England, there is an event called March March March where a group of academics and students gather in March during the third month of each year, and then walk briskly back to Cambridge, pausing at numerous convenient hostelries.
 Had had had
The linguistic folklore has several examples involving the verb "had" They are considered to be part of professional humor of linguists and included in many English language primers for foreigners for adding some amusement to the tedious work of language learning.
- John, where Bill had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had the teacher's approval.
- John, when playing a game of Scrabble against Dick who, whilst pondering the degree of legitimacy the last word that Harry (who had had 'had') had had had had, had had 'had', had had 'had'. Had 'had' had more letters, he would have played it again.
- Pupils in a class were given the challenge of creating a sentence with the maximum run of consecutive uses of the word "had", as in the preceding examples. Hadley did very well but did not take the prize. "Had(ley) had had "had had had had... (totalling 16 instances as in the above example)", had Had had "had had had had...(17 instances)", Had would have won". That sentence contained 40 consecutive hads. Using this method of construction it is possible to construct extremely long strings of hads.
 Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
 Esau Wood
Esau Wood sawed wood. Esau Wood would saw wood. All the wood Esau Wood saw, Esau Wood would saw. In other words, all the wood Esau saw to saw, Esau sought to saw. Oh, the wood Wood would saw! And, oh the wood-saw with which Wood would saw wood! But one day, Wood's wood-saw would saw no wood, and thus the wood Wood sawed was not the wood Wood would saw if Wood's wood-saw would saw wood. Now, Wood would saw wood with a wood-saw that would saw wood, so Esau sought a saw that would saw wood. One day, Esau saw a saw saw wood as no other wood-saw Wood saw would saw wood. In fact, of all the wood-saws Wood ever saw saw wood, Wood never saw a wood-saw that would saw wood as the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood would saw wood, and I never saw a wood-saw that would saw as the wood-saw Wood saw would saw until I saw Esau Wood saw wood with the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood. Now Wood saws wood with the wood-saw Wood saw saw wood.
 Other languages
- In Arabic طرقت الباب حتى كلمتني فلما كلّ متني كلمتني/ فقالت يا اسماعيل صبرا فقلت لها يا سما(ء) عيل صبري is a rubai usually told as a riddle because of the use of phonetics to achieve double meanings. When read it sounds like the same word is repeated three times and twice in each line respectively, and is pronounced "taraqt el bab hata kalmatni falama kall matni kalmatni/ fgalt li yasma'il sabran fglt laha yasma 'il sabri". It can be translated as "I knocked on the door until my arm hurt so when my arm hurt she talked to me / She said Isma'il patience so I said Asma I have run out of patience".
- In Serbian and Croatian, the sentence "Gore gore gore gore", means "up there the hills are burning worse" (however, the words have different accents). If you wanted to say that the woods in the upper hills burn slower than the woods in the lower in Serbian, you could probably say the "gore gore gore gore" even if not asked to say it with the same words. The sentence "Gore gore gore gore gore gore gore" would mean "up there, its worse that the worse upper hills burn worse in the higher parts " The Gore means hills or mountains as noun, Worse as the comparative of adjective, burn as the noun and means "up".
- In Bulgarian there are two such phrases, "Той бил бил Бил (Toy bill bill Bill)" means "He had beaten Bill (the case of the verb in the sentence implies this was told to me by somebody else, I was not a witness).". The other phrase is "На граничната застава застава Застава (Nah granichnatah zastava zastava Zastava" which means "A Zastava car goes and stands at the frontier post)".
- In Bengali(Bangla), "Baba, banaba na banaba na?" means "Father, will you make it or not make it?".
- In Catalan, "Cap cap cap" means "no head enters". A longer form is "En cap cap cap el que cap en aquest cap" that means "in no head enters what enters in this head".
- Also in Catalan, "Déu deu deu" means "God owes ten". Often merged with precedent phrase to result "En cap cap cap que Déu deu deu" meaning "In no head enters that God owes ten" or "Nobody can belive/understand that God owes ten".
- in Cantonese, the phrase "gò go gó gò gòu gwó gò go gó gò" (in Yale romanization, Chinese characters: 嗰個哥哥高過嗰個哥哥) means "That older brother is taller than that older brother".
- In Mandarin Chinese, "mā ma mà mǎ ma? mǎ mà mā ma ma?" (妈妈骂马吗？ 马骂妈妈吗？)means "Does Mother scold horses or do horses scold Mother?" However, Mandarin is a tonal language, so the words above are not true homophones. This sentence is used as an exercise to show the contrastive nature of Chinese tones and practice their correct realizations. A similar example is Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den, in which shi is repeated with varying tones.
- In Danish, "Far, får får får? Nej, får får ikke får, får får lam" means "Dad, do sheep have sheep? No, sheep do not have sheep, sheep have lambs".
- In Dutch, "Als In Bergen, bergen bergen bergen bergen bergen, bergen bergen bergen bergen bergen." Roughly meaning: "If in Bergen, heaps of mountains salvage heaps of mountains, then heaps of mountains salvage heaps of mountains".
- In Dutch, "Als achter vliegen vliegen vliegen, vliegen vliegen vliegen achterna" If flies fly behind flies, then flies fly behind flies.".
- In Dutch, "Als nog niet begraven graven graven graven, graven graven gravengraven" If counts who are not yet buried, dig graves, then counts dig count-graves.
- In Dutch, "Motten motten motten" Moths like moths. Although 'motten' used as a verb is more slang than proper Dutch.
- In Filipino the interrogative sentence "Bababa ba?", which is translated to English as "[Is someone] Going down?", is used when a driver asks his passengers if they intend to go out of the vehicle. An extension is the following exchange in an elevator: "Baba, bababa ba?" "Bababa." "Ba, bababa!" which means: "Baba (proper name), [is this elevator] going down?" "[Yes, it is] going down." "Oh! (amazed) So it's going down!")
- In Finnish, "Kokko, kokoa kokoon koko kokko. Koko kokkoko? Koko kokko." means "Kokko, build up the whole bonfire. The whole bonfire? (Yes, ) The whole bonfire." Another sentence is "Piilevät piilevät piileviä piileviä piilevissä piilevissä"which could be translated as "Diatoms are hiding from concealed algae in hidden pond scum". Also, "Tuu kattoon kattoon kun kärpänen tapettiin tapettiin" (dialectal), meaning "Come to the ceiling to take a look at a fly that was killed on the wallpaper". "Etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät", meaning "The searching investigators searched for, and found, the searching investigators.".
- In French : "Si ton tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton tondu sera." Which gives literally: If your uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle shaved will be.
- Also in French: "Si six scies scient six cyprès, six cents scies scient six cents cyprès." Which translates to: "If six saws saw six cypress trees, six hundred saws saw six hundred cypress trees." (Si, six, scies, scient, and the first syllable of cyprès are all pronounced more or less the same in French - similar to the English "see".)
- Also in French: "Le ver vert va vers le verre vert." Which translates to: 'The green grub goes to the green glass.'
- In German, "Wenn hinter Fliegen Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen hinterher" means "If flies fly after flies, flies fly behind flies." (Same meaning as the Dutch Als achter vliegen vliegen vliegen, vliegen vliegen vliegen achterna)
- Also in German, "Die Männer, die vor dem Schokoladenladen Laden laden, laden Ladenmädchen gerne ein" means "The men who are loading shutters in front of the chocolate shop like to ask out the shop girls" (Variant: "Ladenjungen, die Schokoladeladen laden, laden Ladenmädchen zum Tanz ein")
- In Swiss German, "Da da da? Da da da. Da da da da!". A conversation between two women from Schleitheim on a train discussing whether a toddler is allowed to lick the windowpane: "He's allowed to do that?" "He can do that." "That you let him do that!". (In German: "Darf das [Kind] das [tun]?" "Das [Kind] darf das [tun]." "Dass das [Kind] das [tun] darf!")
- In Hebrew, אשה נעלה נעלה נעלה נעלה את הדלת בפני בעלה (Isha na'ala na'ala na'ala na'ala et hadelet bifnei ba'ala) means "A respectable woman put on her shoe, locked the door in front of her husband". 'נעל' (na'al) means 'put on (footwear)' and hence also 'shoe', but also means 'lock'. 'עלה' ('alah') means 'raise', from which the niphal 'נעלה' means 'exalted' or 'noble'.
- In Hindi, "गया गया गया" ("Gaya gaya Gaya") means "A man named Gaya went to the city Gaya." Gaya is a name in India, a well-known city in the state of Bihar, India and also translates as "went to".
- In Hungarian, "A követ követ követ." means "The ambassador follows a stone.".
- In Icelandic, Bóndinn á Á á á á beit means "The farmer on Á (the name of his farm. Á means river in this case) has a sheep that is biting grass.
- In Irish Tá leis-leis leis leis leis leis. A subsidiary [leis-] thigh [leis] of its/his [leis i.e with him, belonging to him] has been stripped [tá ... leis] by him [leis] also [leis]. There are two people or animals being referred to.
- In Japanese, 「裏庭には二羽庭には二羽鶏がいる」"Uraniwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwatori ga iru." (There are two chickens in the back yard and two in the front yard.) is a well-known tongue-twister. Also: 東欧を覆おう (Tooooooooo) is pronounced as a continuous /o/ following the t. It means "Let's cover Eastern Europe."
- In a Korean dialect, "Gaga gaga ga?" means "Is that person (first gaga) Ga family's (second gaga) member (first ga) ? (last ga indicates it is a question)".
- In Latin, "Malo malo malo malo" means "I'd rather be in an apple tree than a bad man in adversity." A similar but shorter sentence is 'Malo mala mala', meaning "I prefer bad apples." In Latin, a similarly constructed sentence is found, though not of homonyms, but is aurally and visually very close and which would be made even more difficult if shown without spaces between words, as was often done in early Latin texts: mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt; which tranlates to "The tiny mimes of the snow spirits in no way wish, while they are alive, the tremendous task of [serving] the wine of the defenses to be diminished." The problem of long series of unconnected minims in blackletter eventually led to the development of the dotted i and the j.
- In Malay lovers can say "Sayang, sayang, sayang sayang sayang. Sayang sayang sayang?", which translates to "Darling, I love you. Do you love me?". This is a true homophone as the same word is used for pronoun and verb. The person being asked can even reply "Sayang", or "Sayang sayang sayang", in return.
- In Norwegian, the sentence "Avstanden mellom Ole og og og og og Kari har økt", meaning roughly "The distance between Ole and 'and' and 'and' and Kari has been increased.", could be uttered to explain that three words on a sign ("Kari og Ole") have been moved further away from each other.
- In Papiamento, "No ta Tatata ta tata di Tatata, sino ta tata di Tatata su tata ta tata di Tatata". Roughly meaning: "It's not Tatata who's the father of Tatata, but the father of Tatata's father is the father of Tatata."
- In Persian, the word جعفر in "جعفري ديدم كه بر جعفر سوار، جعفري مي خورد و از جعفر گذشت" is used to mean the name of a person, animal, celery and creek. The sentence translates to "I saw Jaffar (name), riding a jaffar, eating celery, crossing over a creek".
- In colloquial, dialectal Portuguese spoken in Minas Gerais (Brazil), the sentence "Popó, pó pô pó? Pó pô, pô" means "Popó, can I put powder? Yes, of course you can" - "Popó" is a nickname, "pó" is a short word for "Pode" (Can), "pô" stands for "pôr" (put), "pó" means [coffee] powder and "pô" gives emphasis. The answer is an affirmative sentence and "Pó" now means "Pode" (Can).
- In Russian, a well-known brainteaser is the task to fragment the following sequence into words to make a meaningful text: "kolokolokolokola" (Answer: "kol okolo kolokola", meaning "the stake (is) near the bell", or "kolokol okolo kola", meaning "the bell (is) near the stake", or "kol, o, kol okolo kola", meaning "The stake, oh, the stake near (another) stake")
- In Spanish:
- "¿Cómo 'cómo como'? ¡Como como como!" means "What do you mean 'how do I eat'? I eat how I eat!", provided the correct emphasis on each como.
- In Latin American Spanish, "¡Papá! Papa pa' Papa, papá." means "Dad! Potato for the Pope, dad." The pa is used as a short form of para (for, to).
- A short story by Robert Sheckley Shall We Have a Little Talk? (a 1965 Nebula Award for Best Novelette) describes a planet where language mutates so fast that an Earthman colonizer cannot catch up with it: the yesterday's version he learned overnight hypnopaedically, tomorrow is no longer in use. The Earthman accepted his defeat when he was addressed thusly: Mun mun-mun-mun. Mun mun mun; mun mun mun; mun mun. Mun, mun mun mun--mun mun mun. Mun-mun? Mun mun mun mun!.
- In Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, "Far, får får får? Får får lamm!" which translates to "Daddy, do sheep give birth to sheep? (No,) sheep give birth to lambs!" Extended variant is: "Får får får? Nej, får får ej får för får får lamm." (Does sheep give birth to sheep? No, sheep does not give birth to sheep because sheep gives birth to lambs). Another version is "Far får får, får får lamm" (Father receives sheep, sheep gives birth to lambs)
- In colloquial Swedish, "Nallar nallar nallars nallar?" which translates to "Do teddy bears steal (other) teddy bears' teddy bears?"
- Tamil, in the 12th couplet of the Thirukkural, it says, "Thuppaarkkuth thuppaaya thuppaakkith thuppaarkkuth thuppaaya thuuvum mazhai". Roughly translated into English as "The rain begets the food we eat; And forms a food and drink concrete". Many such couplets (with homophones) are found in this literary work.
- In Thai, "ไม้ใหม่ไม่ไหม้ไหม (mai mai mai mai mai)" is a complete sentence meaning "New wood doesn't burn, does it?", although as Thai is a tonal language, each "mai" is pronounced differently, as such they are not actually homophones.
- In Turkish, "'Müdür müdür müdür' müdür?" means "'Is the manager [really] the manager?', is that the question we are discussing?". Also in Turkish, "Yüzeyden yüze yüze, yüz yüze yüzleşmiş yüz yüzü yüz." means "Skin hundred pelts that are facing each other as you are swimming above the water."
- In Broad Scots Doric dialect (Scotland), " Fit fit fits fit fit?" can be more easily understood if you imagine a Buckie fisherman in a shoe shop looking in a puzzled manner at a pair of shoes and asking: "What foot fits what foot?" i.e. "Which shoe fits which foot?"
- In Slovak dialect (eastern), "Tato, ta to ti to tu?" which translates to: "Daddy, is it you who's here?"
- In a Broad Yorkshire Accent "Tintintin" is "It isn't (t'int) in the (in't) tin"
- ^ "Badger badgers badger" of Boris Johnson discussed on "Boriswatch"; buffalo mentioned there as well
- ^ http://people.bath.ac.uk/masgks/march.html
- ^ a b Ministry of Education, Taiwan.
- ^ Ma1 ma1 ma4 ma3 ma5 ma3 ma4 ma1 ma1 ma5. "Ma ma" in the "International Collection of Tongue Twisters"
- ^ "Niwa niwa" in the "International Collection of Tongue Twisters"