Greg Ross writes at Futility Closet that Noam Chomsky once offered the expression Colorless green ideas sleep furiously as an example of a sentence that’s perfectly grammatical but is pure nonsense.
Naturally, some people took this as a challenge, Ross says, and students at Stanford set up a competition to show that the expression could be understood as a meaningful sentence. Here is one of the prize-winning entries:
“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 labouring 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.“
Futility Closet is a site filled with thousands of “entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics.” Check it out.
Also from the Futility Closet is this gem
Ancient Chinese encyclopedia wisdom:
“On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g), stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance. “
I LOVE it. I particulaily like the meta aspect of (k) – it’s an animal drawn by a brush from a particular animal’s hair – does camel hair have magic powers?
And then there’s the utter wonderfullness of giving up altogether that’s inherent in (l).
Beach Reads: It’s that time of year when everyone has a summer reading suggestion or three for you, including:
Flavorwire‘s “20 new nonfiction books that will make you smarter”
For example:The Boston Globe‘s “Summer reading suggestions,”
Vulture‘s “6 books to read this summer,”
Buzzfeed‘s “22 books you need to read this summer,”
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: A love story about two people falling in love with each other and a book they both adore.
New Republic‘s “9 smart, entertaining new books to get you through the summer
For example:The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman leaps back and forth through time, and skips all across the globe. It’s a bookshop-lover’s book, and beautiful prose-lover’s book, and read-it-all-in-one-weekend book.
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