Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

This phase has been stuck in my head lately: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. It was first used by the linguist Noam Chomsky as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct, yet has no meaning.

Interestingly, in 1985 this was taken up as a challenge. The result was a literary competition to write a short text that gives the sentence meaning. Before you continue reading, think for a while about how the sentence could have meaning.

Here is the best entry:

It can only be the thought of verdure to come, which prompts us in the autumn to buy these dormant white lumps of vegetable matter covered by a brown papery skin, and lovingly to plant them and care for them. It is a marvel to me that under this cover they are laboring unseen at such a rate within to give us the sudden awesome beauty of spring flowering bulbs. While winter reigns the earth reposes but these colorless green ideas sleep furiously. – C. M. Street

Now, that is “thinking inside a bigger box”.

Here’s another linguistic treat for you: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana

Source: wikipedia.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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