In a world with no rules … one man … broke them all.

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That's the tagline for Banksy's soon to be released film Exit Through the Gift Shop. This is turning out to be a good day for sentences you need to read twice. And it's rare to find one which says nothing and everything (about street art, grammar, movies, you name it) so precisely.

[via the Guardian]


  1. Mark Liberman said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    But you yourself documented a worthy predecessor, Orwell's Sixth Rule of writing.

  2. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    Could this be a tribute to the late great Don LaFontaine, master of the grandiose-yet-meaningless "In a world…" movie tagline?

  3. Tenderfoot said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    I'd like to think this is intentional nonsense, a merging of cliches like Stephen Colbert's book title: "I Am America (And So Can You!)"

    [Yes, it's clearly intentional, and very much Banksy's style. Here's another Banksy quote that messes around with the reader's ability to resolve anaphoric expressions: "Is graffiti art or vandalism? That word has a lot of negative connotations and it alienates people, so no, I don't like to use the word 'art' at all." (Here the anaphoric expression is "that word", and in the title of the post it's "them all".) -dib]

  4. Matt said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    It's not illogical in the slightest. The world has no rules because he broke them all. Duh.

  5. Rolig said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 4:46 am

    It's an effective sentence, but it's not illogical, only elliptical (as perhaps the ellipsis marks suggest):
    In a world [that appeared to have] no rules … one man … [discovered them and then] broke them all.

  6. Tim Silverman said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    In a world with no rules, everyone breaks them all, without even trying—and keeps them all, too.

  7. only asking said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

    I think this is simply meant to be funny. Perhaps it's a British thing. I don't think it means anything, but I laughed.

  8. Will H. said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    I'm not sure I understand the "rule breaking". The title is referring to how museum goers are frequently informed that they should please "exit through the gift shop"; it being, of course, placed so that everyone has to pass through it at some point. It's simply an instruction.

  9. Peter Taylor said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

    @Will H: it's about "street art", and I presume predominantly graffiti. From one perspective, if graffiti has any rules they consist of "Don't get caught". But although it is an extra-legal activity (in the contexts in which Banksy started, at any rate), there is a recognisable sub-culture of graffiti artists who have cultural norms. Hope that's sufficient context.

    FWIW I saw Banksy vs Bristol Museum and it was excellent. If the film comes to a local cinema I'll probably go to see it.

  10. Robert said,

    January 28, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    In mathematics its fine to universally quantify over an empty set. So, for instance it is true that all the even prime numbers strictly greater than 2 are perfect.

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