There is a popular example of a syntactically ambiguous phrase in Russian sometimes used as a linguistic joke:

Возьмём предложение Косой косой косил косой косой и попробуем определить все возможные варианты частеречной разметки для повторяющихся слов // М. Копотев, Введение в корпусную лингвистику

How do I parse this phrase?

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    – Quassnoi
    Feb 16, 2019 at 23:19
  • @shabunc please see if it works this way. Thanks!
    – Quassnoi
    Feb 17, 2019 at 19:04
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    thank you for editing question michael. @Quassnoi I always trust you expertise and when you believe that something worth reopening - feel free to just reopen. I can not recall a single case when I was in disagreement with your decision.
    – shabunc
    Feb 17, 2019 at 20:32
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    Literally nothing of substance has changed, but two mods got an opportunity to ostentatiously exercise their powers and validate each other. Moderatorial ego is the bane of smaller communities. Nobody benefits from it, not even the mods themselves. Self-importance masquerading as doing important administrative work is one of the oldest ways humans are tricked by their own psychology. Feb 19, 2019 at 16:54
  • In Czech it could be Kosé kose kosilo kosou kosou. Or even Kosé kose kose kosilo kosou kosou. Feb 20, 2019 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


"A cross-eyed hare mowed with a crooked scythe."

косой: adjective, "crooked, skewed, leaning, cross-eyed"

косой: nominalised adjective, same meaning, a folk epithet for a hare

"Cross-eyed one" is what a hare may be called in a fairytale, or in hunters' banter.

How do the two "cross-eyed"s in a row work? Compare (for lack of a better example I can immediately think of): "a forsaken Forsaken wandered about". (The second time referring to the race from the Warcraft universe.) Or, "Gollum grabbed his precious precious".

косил: "mowed, was mowing"

косой: same adjective as before, this time in feminine instrumental

косой: instrumental of коса, "scythe"

It's a popular joke commenting on the opacity, and overlapping, of Russian grammatical endings, but it usually doesn't have the hare in it, because it starts to get a little bit too contrived. The version I grew up with is косил косой косой косой "a cross-eyed [person] mowed with a crooked scythe".

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