I saw this funny meme from someeecards:

If 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people.' is correct, does that mean that toasters don't toast toast, toast toast toast.

It has me a little confused: To me it sounds like toast toasts toast, not toast toast toast. Is this meme wrong or am I missing something Either they (toast) toast toast. Or, it (the idea of toast) toasts toast?

  • Toasters 'toast bread' or are used to 'make toast'. Acceptable collocation (the forming of semantically acceptable strings) is rarely predictable. You can teach math, teach children, teach children math, teach school ... but you can't teach math school or children school. Jan 31, 2018 at 12:16
  • @EdwinAshworth Surely "teaching children school" is teaching the ways of school to children?
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 31, 2018 at 13:15
  • 4
    The meme is cringeworthy on a number of levels. First, its complete misapprehension of the original idiom “guns don’t kill people”. Second, it’s apparent unawareness or complete mutilation of “toasters don’t toast toast” (they toast bread). Third, the absolutely gorey resulting sentences. And finally that the joke wouldn’t even be funny if those flaws were repaired. There’s nothing redeeming about the meme at all. My guess is it was put together by an 11 year old aspiring memer with a couple half-remembered phrases and a blender.
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 31, 2018 at 13:16
  • @DanBron You seem to have a bit of a sense of humour failure there. Jan 31, 2018 at 14:28
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    At any rate, for the the words to be logically conected, and not rely on the urge of the viewer to jump all over some people with poor priorities, the sentences should "... that toasters don't toast toast, people toast toast." And, then of course it wouldn't be funny because it would simply be making the point accurately that people politically want to ridicule (an yes there might be reasons for ridicule ... but not on the surface of their assertion)
    – Tom22
    Jan 31, 2018 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


Your interpretation is correct, but so-called Internet memes are not overly concerned about grammaticality or idiomacity or logic.

The humor fails on multiple levels. As Edwin and Dan point out in the comments, there are various practical objections, for example, that toasters toast bread. But it is an attempt to be humorous, after all, not really a political argument, so the bad analogy is beside the point.

The attempt lies primarily within the thrice-repeated toast. This forces the reader to pause to work out how each toast functions. Toast is not the grammatical verb form, however, which spoils the attempt. Guns and people are plural whereas the middle toast, being used as an uncountable noun here, is treated as singular. The grammatical form doesn't succeed as there is no confusion as to which words serve which roles in toast toasts toast as compared, for example, to Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

You need a noun which shares a form with a related verb and which can also serve as its object or other complement. Consider

Fishermen don't fish fish, fish fish fish.

  • It's an internet meme, and is therefore required by IETF to contain at least one grammatical error.
    – shoover
    Jan 31, 2018 at 17:37

Leaving aside all other considerations, the question is whether the clause

toast toast toast

can be generated within the standard rules of English grammar. The answer is no. Toast is a non-countable noun and thus eternally singular. As a verb, however, it takes the third person singular ending.

Thus there is another version in circulation which corrects the error, choosing as its spokesperson one whose credentials surely cannot be questioned:

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