"What's the shortest sentence in the English language, shortest in terms of the least words and the least letters?" I asked my class of adult students. Jennifer raised her hand. "Yes, Miss Jennifer?"
"Is it 'I love' or 'I am'?" she asked.
"No, sorry," I said.
"Oh, I know," volunteered Adele, "it's 'Oh' or 'Ha' or 'Hi.'"
I had to swallow hard. "No. Let's go basic: What's the definition of a sentence?" At that point, my radar was drawn to Denise, the only bleached blond in the class. "Miss Denise, can you tell us?"
"Uh, a sentence is something you say," she replied.
I had to grit my teeth. "Well, I often say, 'Pinewood abstractly umbrella.' Is that a sentence?"
"I don't think so. I guess so. I don't know," Denise replied.
"No, not really, Miss Denise. In fact, the shortest sentence is 'Jeet?'"
"Jeep?" Denise reacted, "like the truck?"
"No, no---'Jeet.'" I wrote the word onto the blackboard. "'Jeet?' is shorthand slang for 'Did you eat yet?' and it's only four letters long. What do you think about that?"
"I guess so. I think I've heard that word before."
"Sentence," I corrected Denise---"not word, but sentence---thereby satisfying the still-unknown definition of a sentence and the requirement for the openly declared shortest of this unknown. Good work!"
Denise wrote what I said into her notebook, and resumed chewing her gum. I slowly erased "Jeet?"
This incident reminds me of the two entertainment-news reporters on television whom I was watching last night. "So of the five Oscar nominees for best actress, the two we just discussed have the best chance of winning, I think," said one reporter.
"Well, if neither one of those two wins, the Academy has a lot of other choices for the award," said the other reporter."
"Sweet Jesus," I said to myself, "if three other nominees represent 'a lot' of choices, I wonder what she would call, say, fifty or a hundred other choices---'lotsa lotsa' or 'lottest' or some other crappy phrase? For God's sake, woman, the word or phrase you mean is 'several' or 'a few'!"