Certain phrasings I come across from time to time make me stumble for half a second and re-read them. One of these is the consecutive repetition of a word, for example, “Before yesterday I had had doubts about bothering with this blog.” Even though it’s perfectly grammatical, it just seems so strange to lay those hads side by side.
But I discovered a riddle at increasebrainpower.com with more consecutive repetitions of the word that than even Kanye West could manage in his song Stronger (“Now that that that that don’t kill me, could only make me stronger…”). And hot damn, girrl, this one was grammatically correct, too.
See if you can solve this grammar riddle by inserting the correct punctuation:
I said that that that that that man wrote should’ve been underlined.
Don’t scroll down yet. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
You’ll feel better if you solve it for yourself.
No, I said don’t scroll down!
OK, fine – here’s the solution.
I said that, “That ‘that’ that that man wrote should’ve been underlined.”
If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you can click here for a detailed explanation.
But I think I managed to top the riddle with an extra ‘that’:
I never said that ‘that’; that ‘that’ that that man wrote should’ve been underlined.
I’m always surprised by the infinite possibilities of the English language… Have a go at creating something just as strange – something to raise a grammar Nazi’s eyebrows. I’d love to see the results!