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Tongue Twisters

05
Oct
2011
 

By Christine Lovatt

Every language has its own tongue twisters. Like many forms of humour, it shows how we all enjoy playing with words and language.

Some words in other languages look hard for us to say, and that may be why we say it’s all Greek to me, or double Dutch, when anything looks incomprehensible.

Even Dutch-speaking people may have trouble saying hoor de kleine klompjes klepperen op de klinkers (hear the small wooden shoes click on the clinkers).

Speech therapists use tongue twisters to help their patients with speech difficulties. If you say crows in clothes chose cosy cloaks over and over, you find you can eventually train your tongue to move fast enough to keep up. Traditionally, the most tongue-challenging English phrase is the sixth
sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.

The word for tongue twisters in some tongues is a challenge in itself. In German it’s zungenbrecher, in Japanese it’s hayakuchi kotoba, in Spanish, trabalenguas.

In Java, a popular tongue twister is pitik blorok klorok bolak balik (the spotted chicken crows over and over.)

And over in Eire, d’ith damh dubh ubh amh ar neamh means 'a black ox ate a raw egg in heaven'.

Italians could stumble over Chi l’è calà cu l’ha calà chila calà cu la calotta russa? (Who is that girl that came down from the hill with a red cap?)

Finally, here’s one in Zulu: Amaxoxo ayaxokozela exoxa ngoxamu exhibeni.
(the frogs are talking loudly about the monitor lizard.)

Make up your own — but don’t trip over your tongue!

Christine

 

16 Responses to

Tongue Twisters

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Tinkers said:
October 05, 2011 at 10:19 PM

I think "hoor de kleine klopmjes klepperen op de klinkers: is a lot easier to say than "is the sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick".Can still remember having to learn 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, where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter piper picked?, at school.

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Xrosie said:
October 06, 2011 at 8:07 AM

I am hopeless at them, so I don"t even try. My husband is okay, even does the Welsh town as easy as pie.

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no1llama said:
October 06, 2011 at 12:53 PM

I have trouble enough with normal ocnversation at times, forget the tongue twisters!

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no1llama said:
October 06, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Sorry, 'conversation'. See, it even comes through in my typing...

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October 06, 2011 at 3:35 PM

To elaborate on what already's been said: 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 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. Some of the more difficult ones include: 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. Or another: I am a mother pheasant plucker. I pluck mother pheasants. I am the most pleasant mother pheasant plucker, to ever pluck a mother pheasant. Or another: I'm a sheet slitter I slit sheets If sheet need slitting, Sheets I slit.

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October 06, 2011 at 5:59 PM

ouch

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kaspers said:
October 06, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Where is there a tongue twister in Peter Piper etc.? The Dutch example is equally innocuous, no Dutch person would have any difficulty with that sentence. The wood chuck is another non event, interesting but hardly a tongue-twister! The pheasant plucker (or the variety the fig plucker can be tongue twisters but only rely on the vulgar result if a Spoonerism occurs). I like the "Sixth sick sheik" etc. but to me the best tongue twister in English is: She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore".

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b0ad1cea said:
October 07, 2011 at 3:55 AM

Just thought of another. Round the Rugged Rock the Ragged Rascal Ran. What about Find Five Flying Fish Fiddling at the Fair.????(I made that one up, can't you tell?) Or Harry went to Hampstead, Harry lost His Hat Harry's mother said to Harry "Harry, Where's your Hat?" " Hanging in Hall, Mum, Hanging in the Hall." "s'not Hanging in the Hall son? S'not Hanging in the Hall!" I love them. We use to say the above one dropping all the H's.

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Pilot_Sal said:
October 08, 2011 at 4:58 AM

Try this: We shall surely see the sun shine.

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October 08, 2011 at 5:45 AM

For me, the toughest are the ones with lots of r and w sounds -- "white right-winger", "one-run win"", etc.

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louigi said:
October 10, 2011 at 12:13 AM

I learned, "Peter Piper picked a peck of PURPLE pickled peppers!"

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louigi said:
October 10, 2011 at 12:17 AM

Continuing... "A peck of purple pickled peppers Peter Piper picked, If Peter Piper picked a peck of purple pickled peppers, Where's the peck of purple pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?" My kids got a hoot out of that one and others when they were growing up! 8)

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kathiew said:
October 10, 2011 at 12:48 AM

"A tutor who tooted the flute tried to tutor two tooters to toot. Said the two to the tutor Is it harder to toot or to tutor two tooters to toot?

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Staff

Miranda said:
October 11, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Whatever one toucan can do, Is sooner done by toucans two, And toucans numbering two plus two can, Do much more than all the zoo can, In short there is no toucan who can, Do what four or three or two can

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October 11, 2011 at 5:45 PM

Ahem ... six wicked quick-witted cricket critics.

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gm1951 said:
October 12, 2011 at 4:43 PM

When I was learning French (at the time the dinosaurs were still roaming the earth) we were taught a short "virelangue" which doesn't translate to much in English but is quite tricky if you're not a fluent French speaker: Un ver vert va vers un verre en verre (A green worm goes towards a glass cup). There are slight pronunciation nuances which may not be apparent to a non-French speaker wherein the final "t" and "s" are not actually enunciated. OR Le pauvre petit pĂȘcheur, prend patience pour pouvoir prendre plusiers petits poissons. (The poor little fisherman,waits patiently to be able to catch several small fish) Bon chance!!