Nonsense Sentences

A nonsense sentence has a logical, grammatical structure but no content or meaning.

Compare the following two sentences:

1. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

2. Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.

Neither makes any sense, but the first is grammatically correct; it has a subject and a verb, and it has adjectives and adverbs that modify the subject and verb correctly.

The second “sentence” is pure gibberish; it is a random collection of words with no logical or grammatical structure.

Once we understand how the words in sentence 1 function grammatically, we can easily replace the words of the first sentence with sensible words and create a normal English sentence:

Tiny white mice run quickly.

Generate at least THREE proper sentences using sentence 1 as a model.

Here is the first stanza of perhaps the most famous nonsense poem in English:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome rathes outgrabe.
– “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

We can turn this poem into prose by removing the line breaks and untangling the syntax:

It was billig, and the slithy toves gyred and gimbled in the wabe; the borogroves were all mimsy, and the mome rathes outgrabe.

If we identify how Carroll’s nonsense words function grammatically and substitute sensible words for them, we can create a proper English sentence:

It was cold, and the little fish twisted and tumbled in the water; the birds were all quiet, and the proud lions roared.

Create at least TWO grammatical sentences based on Carroll’s nonsense sentence.

Download: Nonsense Sentences

Page Last Updated: 15 August 2013