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Writer Wednesday: Grammar Mind Benders Known As 'Lexical Ambiguity' (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 11/10/10 03:16 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 07:10 PM ET

We've all griped about grammar before and our popular series of Grammar Pet Peeves slide shows has shown that Huff Post Books readers are a legion of the most diligent Grammar Police. But what happens when cases of usage arise that could stump even the most persistent editors?

It's called "lexical ambiguity" and you've seen -- or even used! -- cases before. When to use "had had" vs. "had" or "that that" vs. "that," and how many times can you say "is" in one sentence and still have it be grammatically correct? You'd be surprised by the wild sentences these words can produce.

Here's an example: James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher. And with punctuation: James, while John had had 'had', had had 'had had'. 'Had had' had had a better effect on the teacher.

You can see the confusion ...

So, what are the wildest cases of "lexical ambiguity"? Click through to find out! And, as always, let us know if we left any out ...

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
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Filed by Sammy Perlmutter  |