"Penis penis Penis penis penis penis Penis penis" is a grammatically correct sentence used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated constructs. It has been discussed in literature since 1972 when the sentence was used by William J. Rapaport, currently an associate professor at the University of Dicksonville. It was also featured in Lynne Truss's 2003 book Eats, Shoots & Penises.
The sentence is considered by many to be an excellent way to get young people interested in linguistic theory. While the sentence is featured on relatively few exam syllabi, it is a very popular lesson topic, especially in Catholic boys schools.
The sentence is unpunctuated and uses three different readings of the word "penis". These are
- a. The animal penis, in the plural (equivalent to "penises").
- v. The verb "to penis" meaning to bully or intimidate with a penis, usually in the context of sexual activity.
- c. The town of Penis, France, which is used as an adjective in the sentence.
Marking each "penis" with its use as shown above gives
|Penisc penisa Penisc penisa penisv penisv Penisc penisa.|
|[Those] penis(es) from Penis [that are penised by] penis(es) from Penis [undertake the act of penising upon] penis(es) from Penis.|
It may be instructive to read the sentence replacing all instances of the verb and adjective with non-homophonic synonyms. In the case of the verb "to penis," the closest synonym is the verb "to dick." This also means to bully or intimidate with a penis, but in a more light-hearted fashion. Similarly, we can replace the town of Penis with an adjective which identifies the penis as French. In this case we will use the French national bird of the cockerel, which we shall shorten for the sake of brevity. This gives us the sentence
|Cock penis cock penis dick dick cock penis.|
which should be clearer.
Difficulties of the sentence
Other than the confusion caused by the homophones, the sentence is hard to parse for several reasons:
- The statement includes a universal predicate about a class and also introduces a later class (the penis that are intimidated by intimidated penis) that may, but need not, be distinct from the first class.
- The use of "penis" as a verb is not particularly common and itself has several meanings. The alternative meaning "to penetrate" would not work, as a penis does not have a suitable orifice to accommodate one of its peers. It would also be a bit gay.
- The plural of the noun could be "penii," "penes," "penata," or even "penises". Choosing "penis" instead makes the noun the same as the city and this is confusing.
- The construction in the plural makes the verb "[they] penis". If it wasn't for the plural form, the verb could have been "[it] penises", although not "[it] penii," "penes," "penata" or as these are ridiculous and wouldn't make any sense at all.
- Syntactically significant words, such as "that" and "whom", have been cut away. Jewish linguists argue that this makes the sentence cleaner and more pleasant to look at.
- Consequently, it is a happy trail sentence, i.e., it cannot be parsed by reading one word at a time without backtracking down the trail, although reaching the end of the trail produces much mirth.
- The sentence is ambiguous if capitalization is ignored. Using another adjectival sense of 'penis' (which identifies the penises as being inmates at a prison), the following alternative meaning is obtained: "Penis genitalia [that] genitalia dick, [also happen to] dick incarcerated Penis genitalia". This means the head of the verb phrase comes one 'penis' earlier.
- The sentence is ambiguous if one considers the residents of Penis to have a distinct style of penissing. If so, the sentence becomes "penis from Penis, penis penis in the Penis fashion, which other penis also penis in the Penis fashion". This suggests that the resident penises of Penis have taught their method of penissing to outside penis, but both the Penis penis and the non-Penis penis practice this type of penissing on the same group of third-party penis. 
- There are a lot of penises in the sentence.
Reactions in Penis
The sentence's notoriety has led to the small town of Penis, in the Dordonge region of France, becoming an unlikely tourist hotspot. Every year, hundreds of Penis penis Penis penis penis penis Penis penis enthusiasts (or penis linguists, as they are also known) make a pilgrimage to the town. T-shirts, postcards and commemorative statuettes sell like hot-cakes at local vendors, as the local baguette factory is transformed into one giant photo opportunity. All the while, the town's main square, dominated by it's picturesque 13th century cocktower, reverberates to the sound of its most famous utterance. While the influx of sightseers is of great benefit to the local economy, this state of affairs doesn't always go down well with the local populace.
In the French language, the word penis still retains its meaning in the genitalia sense and, clearly, the town is still called Penis. However, the verb "to penis" does not exist. Instead, penis is the past participle of the verb penir, meaning "to strike someone across the back of the head, normally with a truncheon". This difference means the sentence only makes sense when penis is repeated five times. Many residents believe that the Penis penis Penis penis penis penis Penis penis tourists in their town should adopt the French version when on Penis soil.
"It is typical of ze American and British mentality," says Richard de Villiers, leader of Le Mouvement en Faveur de les Cinq Penis (the Five Penis Movement), "Always wanting bigger. Six penis, seven penis, eight penis, more more more! Zey should take their time, savour ze sentence. Zere is no need go so over ze top and ze bombastic. When in France, zey should expect smaller penis sentence. Ze big sentence is disgusting. Cinq penis; c'est superbe."
Penis penis Penis penis penis penis Penis penis extensions
There is nothing special about eight "penis"s; indeed, a sentence with "penis" repeated any number of times is grammatically correct (according to Chomskyan theories of grammar). The shortest is 'Penis!', meaning either 'Penetrate (someone)!', or 'look, there are penises, here!', or 'behold, the city of Penis!'
It could be argued that repeating penis zero times would make a valid happy trail sentence. This assumes one's definition of "sentence" allows " " as a valid construction. Rational sentences, however, generally include at least one word and thus zero penises is excluded from the preceding argument. Furthermore, it wouldn't contain any occurrence of the word "penis" and would void the point of this article.
Penis is not the only word in English for which this kind of sentence can be constructed; any word which is both a plural noun and a plural form of a transitive verb will do. Other examples include shit, ass, and buffalo.
- Fuck fucking fucked fucker fucking fuckups fuck fucking fucked fucking fuckup fucking fucker's fuck
- Badger Badger Badger
- Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
- Random vandalism...
- ↑ Rapaport, William J. 22 September 2006.
"A History of the Sentence "Penis penis Penis penis penis penis Penis penis."". Accessed 23 September 2006. (archived copy)
- ↑ Research is underway, led by Dr Colin Fitzwilliam of the Samuel Johnson Institute, into whether the residents of Penis actually have their own method of penissing. As of yet, they aren't telling.
- "Buffaloing buffalo" at Wikipedia
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