A fun brain teaser

The following sentence is a classic one for the proper place of punctuation.  Imagine if you were taking dictation and someone says:
“That that is is that that is not is not but that that is not is not that that is nor is that that is that that is not.”
What is the correct punctuation?
(Actually, if you phrase it correctly from dictation in shorthand, you would be able to come up with the punctuation!)

(by chuck for everyone)

16 comments Add yours
  1. Alright…gotta try this:   That, that is, is. That, that is not, is not, but that, that is not, is not that, that is, nor is that, that is, that, that is not.   Eh? Maybe being not quite so puritanical, I could use extra periods, which make it clearer, but break coordinating cunjunction rules:   That, that is, is. That, that is not, is not. But that, that is not, is not that, that is. Nor is that, that is, that, that is not.   So? Done I good? Hmm? Done I? ./[tyler]

  2. I think that's it. When I tried it I just got a nonsensical string of comparisons of "that"s and "that is"s. I suppose yours actually has some vague meaning. Anyone ever seen this one before?

    Anne while Bob had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

    I think it's the most of the same word in a row that you can have in English while still making sense. Though I suppose it isn't a shorthand puzzle past the punctuation, unlike the above where there was phrasing involved too.

  3. Lol…beat me to it Erik! I stumbled across that one while trying to find the answer to the "that that that" one. After working on it a bit, to NO avail whatsoever, I gave up…now I'm trying to decypher the answer!! Doesn't make sense quite yet.   BUT! Since this is so amusing…here's ANOTHER!!   Make a sentance with five consecutive "and"s. (The original said six…but I couldn't find any…well except for two that "don't count") That's as in "and and and and and" (+1 if you can) not as in "I ate broccoli, and spinach, and celery, and puked, and hated it…etc"   (And I have multiple answers, I'm dying to share, if none are provided!) Too much fun! : ) ./[tyler]

  4. Erik: Heh…yeah. I finally got it after your little hint – the e-mail : ) "It's so easy once you know the answer"   Alright…well, John, I must say…uh…nm…I don't know what to say! hehe. Kindof like one of the answers I had ready:   Tyler had Â· stutter. Yesturday, ° Û¶ trying to tell Â· story to his friends John ﺭ Erik ïº­ Chuck: "I Û¶ r – r – ri Ö» sh…shor…shorthand, ﺭ, ﺭ, ﺭ, ﺭ, ﺭ, ﺭ…" Oooo! I actually made 7 : ) he he. Lol…- to brag…but Û¶ the "writinginging" clever? Yes?!? Yes?!? It isisisis?!?   Anyways… beckons…with it's all aluring charms…ﺭ crap. ./[tyler]

  5. lol Tyler… there are so many contrived solutions to that "and and and" thing… I came across this highly-confusing "and" sentence that goes far beyond seven.

    Wouldn't the sentence "I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And, and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign" have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?

    I figured it out after mulling over it for a short bit. Now "and" doesn't sound like a word 😛

  6. You guys are making me laugh .  Those traces are clever and nicely done.  The correct answer is:   "That that is, is; that that is not, is not; but that that is not, is not that that is; nor is that that is, that that is not."

  7. "That that is, is; that that is not, is not; but that that is not, is not that that is; nor is that that is, that that is not."   I trust that this is stated as being correct and is probably a Gregg standard. But from an English grammatical standpoint, all the sentences have superfluous commas: they are all comma splices and in reality are grammatically sound only sans the commas. The semi-colons I agree with, as they successfully isolate the independent clauses. Well, all except for the last sentence: "(N)or is that that is, that that is not." which is a composed of two dependent clauses linked by another 'comma splice.'

  8. Sephardicjew: Couldn't the phrase "That that is is" be taken a couple ways? "That (the fact that) that is (the thing in reference has a state of being) is (is true)" or "That that is (whatever is a thing that has a state of being) is (has a state of being)"   In the first, being appositional, as the noun phrase "that" is being specified by the restrictive…nevermind…it's restrictive…no commas…*starts grunting and hitting rocks like a caveman* I make answer for self!! Grrooohh!   But what about the coordinating conjunctions? You can't have but or nor, (heh…but or or or nor…but and or or and nor but so or nor would…lol yet but for so…HAHAHAH! *cracks up, falls on floor, faints, looks up…noone's laughing*) Anyways, you can't have but or nor after a semicolon. You'd have to put them after commas and trust the reader to understand that comma-CC seperates independant clauses. Making it "…is not, but that that is not is not that that is, nor is that that is that that is not." Yes? No? ./[tyler]

  9. I totally understand what you're saying and I agree with you, Tyler. As explained with the bonus of tasteful insanity, the commas included above were to prevent ambiguities that could come up (even though they're ambiguities between two virtually meaningless statements, like "A rose is a rose is a rose"). Some of us like to digest especially tricky sentences in little pieces, so the commas, splicing or not, make it readable 🙂

  10. psetus:   Well, the rule about use of conjunctions at the beginning of the sentence has always been, like the 'split infinitive,' something that is more a matter of English idiomatic style. However, the commas, in either reading of "That that is is.", are splices. I do appreciate Erik's reasoning, that they emulate spoken English and allow for clearer understanding, but I was merely being nitpicky about truly correct grammar. As far as communicative accuracy goes, it seems the given answer works fine.  : )

Leave a Reply