How Did We Miss International Tongue Twister Day?

Editor’s Note: We can’t believe we missed the big day! Technically November 7th is International Tongue Twister Day, but since we missed it we thought we’d spend today celebrating it… a good tongue twister is just too good to miss!

By Mary Nicholson

Toy boat.  Say that five times fast in celebration of International Tongue Twister Day.  That must be one of the world’s shortest tongue twisters.  Words or phrases that use the same phonetic sound at the beginning of each word (alliteration) for several words are the base of tongue twisters.  In the famous phrase “she sells sea shells down by the sea shore”, the “s” sound is repeated many times.  Rhyming is also an important part of the tongue twister, as it makes it easier to remember.  Tongue twisters are a part of every culture throughout the world and are often used when teaching English to non-native learners.  Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss consists almost entirely of densely rhyming tongue-twisters.

Now I could go on about tongue twisters, but I think it would be more fun just to have some here for you to try.  One that my brother Jim always used to challenge me with was “rubber baby buggy bumpers”.  After much practicing, I got to where I could take up his challenge of saying it five times fast flawlessly.  Sometimes, I would keep going just to get on his nerves.  I was the little sister, after all.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?  How many times have you said that one?  Fuzzy Wuzzy was frequently discussed in our house when my children were small.  It’s just kind of fun to say, anyway.  Tongue twisters can be short:  “This is a zither”. They can be rather wordy:  “She is a thistle-sifter. She has a sieve of unsifted thistles and a sieve of sifted thistles and the sieve of unsifted thistles she sifts into the sieve of sifted thistles because she is a thistle-sifter”.  Some can be humorous: “It’s not the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in!”  Or they can serve a definite purpose.  The following twister was said to be a diction test for future radio announcers, and it was to be read clearly, without mistakes, in less than 20 seconds (from Coronet Magazine, August 1948): I bought a bit of baking powder and baked a batch of biscuits. I brought a big basket of biscuits back to the bakery and baked a basket of big biscuits. Then I took the big basket of biscuits and the basket of big biscuits and mixed the big biscuits with the basket of biscuits that was next to the big basket and put a bunch of biscuits from the basket into a biscuit mixer and brought the basket of biscuits and the box of mixed biscuits and the biscuit mixer to the bakery and opened a tin of sardines.

One of the favorites in my house comes from the musical, Singin’ in the Rain.  The characters played by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly are in the classroom of a diction coach.  Talking movies were brand new, and the actors had to learn to proper way to speak to their audiences.  Check out their “lesson”!

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