The lecturer is saying

you do face the same problem of missing context in any language like the famous Panda who goes to a restaurant and eats shoots and leaves and they were both delicious.

The context is this piece of formula, which seems not to be delicious

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Here is the story

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down, and orders a sandwich. He eats the sandwich, pulls out a gun, and shoots the waiter dead. As the panda stands up to go, the manager shouts, "Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter, and you didn't even pay for your sandwich!""Hey, man, I'm a PANDA!" the panda shouts back. "Look it up!"The manager opens his dictionary and reads: "Panda: a tree-dwelling mammal of Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves."

Why does the lecturer think the Famous Panda is delicious?

1 Answer 1


Famous Panda isn't delicious. Your lecturer is saying the shoots and leaves are delicious. In this case, "shoots" are immature branches from a tree or plant, and "leaves" refer to the leaves (as on a shoot). This is a well-known joke and example of why commas matter. It hinges on that, without some indication one way or the other, you can't distinguish between the noun and verb forms of "shoots" and "leaves".

If you were to write:

Famous panda eats shoots and leaves.

...with no commas, that would indicate that the panda consumes those two parts of a plant (the shoots and the leaves), or that the panda consumed the shoots, and then departed. With commas, the sentence meaning changes significantly:

Famous Panda eats, shoots, and leaves.

In this case, the panda consumed something, then shot something (with a pistol, for example), and then departed the area where it ate and shot.

I think your lecturer is using this example (somewhat incorrectly) to illustrate that context also matters for some things. He is saying that you can make it clear what form of "shoots" and "leaves" you are using by providing context. In this case, the context they were delicious, makes it obvious that "shoots" and "leaves" are both nouns.

In my opinion, this is somewhat incorrect to use of the trope, because the presence/absence of a comma between "eats" and "shoots", as well as the one after the conjunction "and" (the Oxford comma) of the properly-written sentence should convey the same information as adding "they were delicious". No commas mean "shoots" and "leaves" are nouns, commas mean they're verbs.

The lecturer is trying to make the point that the equations are only meaningful to you if you understand the syntax conventions. In his example f(x) indicates that f is a function that is dependent on the variable x, and not that some variable f should be multiplied by the variable x.

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