Tongue-twister - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A tongue-twister is a phrase that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly. Tongue-twisters may rely on similar but distinct phonemes (e.g., s [s] and sh [ʃ]), unfamiliar constructs in loanwords, or other features of a language.
The hardest tongue-twister in the English language (according to Guinness World Records) is supposedly The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick. William Poundstone claims that the hardest English tongue twister is "The seething sea ceaseth and thus the seething sea sufficeth us."
Many tongue-twisters use a combination of alliteration and rhyme. They have two or three sequences of sounds, then the same sequences of sounds with some sounds exchanged. For example, She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The shells that she sells are sea shells I'm sure. or A black bug bit a big black bear, made a big black bear bleed blood.
Betty Botter bought a bit of butter
The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
And made her batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter makes better batter.
So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter
Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better.
Two well-known such tongue-twisters are "Peter Piper":
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
But if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Were they pickled when he picked them from the vine?
Or was Peter Piper pickled when he picked the pickled peppers
Peppers picked from the pickled pepper vine?
and "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?":
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much wood as he could,
and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
Shep Schwab shopped at Scott's Schnapps shop;
One shot of Scott's Schnapps stopped Schwab's watch.
Some tongue-twisters are short words or phrases, which become tongue-twisters when repeated rapidly (often expressed as "Say this five (or three, ten, etc.) times fast!"). Examples include toy boat, Peggy Babcock, Irish wristwatch, and Red Leather, Yellow Leather. Big whip is another that is difficult for some people to say quickly, due to the lip movement required between the "g" and "wh" sounds.
An example of this sort:
I'm not the pheasant plucker, I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,
And I'm only plucking pheasants 'cause the pheasant plucker's late.
I'm not the pheasant plucker, I'm the pheasant plucker's son,
And I'm only plucking pheasants till the pheasant pluckers come.
Loanwords and other language elements
Certain loanwords contain unfamiliar constructs, which are used in tongue-twisters. For example, Finnish strutsin perhe (the family of an ostrich) has the consonant cluster "str", whereas such consonant clusters do not occur in native Finnish words. Repeated, this might be pronounced as "strutsin perse" ("ostrich's arse").
Other features of language can make for tongue-twisters; for instance, the Czech strč prst skrz krk (stick a finger through the throat) relies on the absence of vowels, although syllabic r is a normal Czech sound.
Something that might be regarded as a type of tongue-twister is a shibboleth, that is, a phrase in a language that is difficult for someone who is not a native speaker of that language to say. An example is Georgian baq'aq'i ts'q'alshi q'iq'inebs ("a frog croaks in the water"), in which "q" is a sort of gulping sound.
There are tongue twisters in every language. One Japanese twister (attempted by child genius Chiyo Mihama in the Anime series Azumanga Daioh) is Basu Gasu Bakuhatsu, Busu Basu Gaido, meaning "Bus Gas Explosion, Ugly Bus Guide." Another (as heard on Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous) is Tonari No Kyaku Wa Yoku Kaki Kuu Kyaku Da, meaning "The customer next to me eats a lot of persimmons (or oysters)". An example in Polish is "Król Karol kupił królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego". In Scouse, the dialect of the English city of Liverpool, it is common to say They do, though, don't they, though. In Scouse this is easy as all of the diagraphs 'th' are pronounced as a 'd', but saying it quickly in Standard RP or GA (hear GA) can be very difficult.
The sign language equivalent of a tongue twister is called a finger fumbler. According to Susan Fischer, the phrase Good blood, bad blood is a tongue-twister in English as well as a finger-fumbler in ASL.
- ^ http://williampoundstone.net/Ultimate.html
- ^ http://www.umich.edu/~archive/linguistics/linguist.list/volume.2/no.251-300
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tongue-twisters
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tongue twisters
- 1st International Collection of Tongue Twisters – 2712 examples in 107 languages as of September 4, 2006
- alphaDictionary's Tongue Twisters from Around the World
- Collection of Popular Tongue Twisters
- Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme - a film project documenting tongue twisters from around the world
- (Dutch) Weblog about and collection of tongue twisters
- http://www.ezaroorat.com/tongue-twisters.html Collection of tongue-twisters