Thursday, May 06, 2004

Plausible Gibberish

Language Log explains:
Try slipping into a conversation a remark like More people have written about this than I have. [. . . ] at first people seem to think it is grammatical and means something. Given a few moments to think, though, they soon realize that it is just plausible-looking English-style gibberish. It seems to be an intelligible sentence of the language but it is just masquerading.

This sentence sounds pretty good at first, because it is very close to the valid sentence: People have written more about this than I have. Not only that, it also works as the first part of a valid sentence such as: More people have written about this than I have credited. I think listeners must unconsciously substitute something like one of those.

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