A form of verbal play, tongue twisters rely on a sequence of phonemes that are similar but distinct, and therefore difficult to articulate clearly and quickly. They’re great practice for public speaking and learning to annunciate, so give these a try!
Tongue twister is an informal term for a word group that’s hard to pronounce properly.
A form of verbal play, tongue twisters rely on a sequence of phonemes that are similar but distinct, and therefore difficult to articulate clearly and quickly.
Examples and Observations
“We supply wristwatches for witchwatchers watching witches Washington wishes watched.”
(James Thurber, Lanterns and Lances. Harper, 1961)
Top chopsticks shops stock top chopsticks.
“Chester chooses chestnuts, cheddar cheese with chewy chives. He chews them and he chooses them. He chooses them and he chews them. . . . those chestnuts, cheddar cheese and chives in cheery, charming chunks.”
(Singing in the Rain, 1952)
“Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of ‘systematically assisting Sisyphus’s stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister,’ which is easier done than said.”
(Lemony Snicket, The Hostile Hospital. HarperCollins, 2001)
Dr. Seuss’s Silly Stuff
“Try to say this, Mr. Knox, please. . . .
“Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.
“Stop it! Stop it!
That’s enough, sir.
I can’t say such silly stuff, sir.”
(Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks. Random House, 1965)
“Betty Botta bought some butter;
‘But,’ said she, ‘this butter’s bitter!
If I will put it in my batter,
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will but make my batter better.’
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So ’twas better Betty Botta
Bought a bit o’ better butter.”
The Best Tongue Twister
“The best tongue-twister is not ‘Betty beat a bit of butter to make better batter.’ No. Nor is it ‘Black bugs blood.’ Or ‘Rubber buggy bumpers.’ No. And it’s not ‘Of all the smells I have ever smelt, I never smelt a smell that smelt like that smell smelt.’ No, no, no. The best tongue-twister is ‘A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, where’s the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked?’ If you can come up with a better tongue-twister than this I will buy you blackberries, buttons, and a box of mixed biscuits.”
(“Dr Sansom’s Extreme Facts.” The Guardian, November 3, 2007)
“Pad Kid Poured Curd Pulled Cold”
“Forget Peter Piper and his Peck of Pickled Pepper–psychologists have come up with what may be the world’s most frustrating tongue twister.
“It may not make much sense, but the phrase ‘pad kid poured curd pulled cold’ completely defeated volunteers taking part in a U.S. speech study.
“Asked to repeat the phrase 10 times at a fast lick, many of the participants clammed up and stopped talking altogether, according to lead researcher Dr Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. . . .
“The tongue twister study, presented at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Francisco, was conducted to shed light on the brain’s speech-planning processes.”
(“Can YOU Say ‘Pad Kid Poured Curd Pulled Cold’?” The Daily Mail [UK], December 4, 2013)
“At a Minute or Two to Two”
“What a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two.
’Tis a thing distinctly hard to say, and harder still to do.
For they’ll beat a tattoo at twenty-to-two,
A rat-a-tat, tat-a-tat, tat-a-tat, tat-a-tattoo,
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum,
At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.”
“A right-handed fellow named Wright,
In writing ‘write’ always wrote ‘rite’
Where he meant to write right.
If he’d written ‘write’ right
Wright would not have wrought rot writing ‘rite.'”