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.

Copyright © 2007 Johannes Brodwall. All Rights Reserved.

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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