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"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

dna3c.jpgDouglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is, perhaps, my favorite sentence in the English language. It is both absurd and fully comprehensible.

One of my favorite afternoons in memory was in May of 1989 shortly after graduating from Purdue. With nothing better to do, I sat in the Blue Cafe in West Lafayette, Indiana and read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover to cover casting, in my mind, various members of Monty Python to voice the parts.

I'm sure I looked odd giggling to myself in the corner as I read the book, but I don't really care. It was pure bliss.

40 for 40, #32


"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."
Can anyone explain this to me?? I can't find a reasonable meaning to this sentence!


Wow, Manuel, that's some coincidence that you should respond to this almost exactly one year after I posted it.

Well, the plain sense of the sentence to me is that the ships were generally brick shaped and looked like they should just fall, and yet they didn't. It captures that moment of incomprehensibility where you see something that just doesn't connect with your life experience. Does that help?

Bizarre. I searched this phrase and found your page on March 12 too. Weird.

It is not that odd. I searched as well--43 minutes late. The reason for my search? The sentence was the "Quote of the Day."

...EDT that is!

Hi all,

I guess I should wait a few months to post this, however, my attentionspan is only 'surpassed' by goldfish, hence my decision to bore you right here and now.

The phrase that lies under discussion here is not all that odd. Personally I think it's just a sort of everyday joke put into a surreal surrounding.

Think of it, haven't you ever used expressions that use objects and events that do not correspond to those events?

'As smooth as razorwire', or 'As easy on the eyes as a zebra born inside out'.

I know these examples might be gross, but they suffice to illustrate the point.

Some phrases just came to life, either by coincidence or by carefully orchestrating the words to maximize it's effect on reader.

'The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't' can be analyzed in a number of ways. However, I think you shouldn't analyze it at all.

Just read it, savour it, accept it :)


For those that need an analysis for everything: Rule number one: Don't be afraid to live your own life. Make your own statements, make your own rules of what you think is funny and what isn't. Especially for the funny stuff you shouldn't need anyone to tell you how to interpret stuff.

As for the phrase, there's several things that one might notice about it - in the first place it's poetic freedom:

-The ships
-hung in the sky
-in much the same way
- that bricks don't

'Ships': Can be anything, from true ocean crossing titanic sized mammoths, but can also be little dingies etc. It's all in the eye of the beholder. It can even mean airplanes!

'hung in the sky': Most ships don't hang in air, not even airplanes. Hanging in the air, considering it as an activity, could indicate laziness, or 'dumb'ness', as in, I don't know what to do so I'll just hang here a bit.

'in much the same way': indicates that there's a comparison underway though what sort of comparison is yet unclear.

'that brick don't': 'that' is just a coupler here and doesn't mean anything toward any explanation.
The comparison about hanging in the air is made toward bricks. As brick surely do not 'hang in air' and even have somewhat of a name when it comes to indicating any scene where something is plummeting toward the vastness of our planet, this bit might just tell it all.

Without knowing in what context this sentence was uttered, it could simply be uttered as a very sarcastic comment about a design, being for a boat or airplane. It could be aimed at a real object, eg. a ship of boat observed against a sunset.

I just like the sentence because it seems to make sense without being able to explain why it so does. I like is most however because I don't have the urge to analyse it and can cimply enjoy it for what it is. Other peoples confusion only adds to my pleasure in reading it :)

Kind regards,

Bricks obey the Law of Gravity.

These ships do not.

Almost weird... I searched the phrase & found you today, almost, but not quite, 2 years later :p

We're reading HGTTG to my 9yo son right now. Just last night, I read the chapter this is in. He giggled madly at this phrase. :-) I love that he gets it!

Here is my interpretation: It is just a contrast. It is so normal for the ships to just hang in the sky, that it almost seems to be part the normal gravitation law...just the same way that falling bricks are part of this law. Ships hang in the sky - bricks don't. It's just "normal". Thats how i thought about it the first time I read it.

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