Tests for Your Tongue

pigtail girlComing up this Sunday – always the second Sunday in November – is International Tongue Twister Day. It’s one of those made-up, just-for-the-fun-of-it holidays that always makes me smile.

There’s  the challenge of getting the tongue twister right – or not – and the nostalgia of remembering when I first learned to delight in language.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

According to http://www.punchbowl.com/holidays/international-tongue-twister-day, Peter Piper was a real person: “Pierre Poivre was a one-armed French pirate and horticulturist during the mid-1700s. Poivre was notorious for stealing spice nuts (known as “peppers”) from Dutch trade ships, and using them to plant his garden. On at least one occasion he stole half a bushel of nutmegs, which inspired the tongue twister we know and love today.”

The same website quotes the Guinness Book of World Records as listing “The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick,” as the most difficult tongue twister in English, but lots of short phrases are surprisingly difficult, especially when you attempt to repeat them three times quickly. Try:

  • Three free throwswristwatch
  • Irish wristwatch
  • Are our oars oak?

Then there are tongue twisters in other languages. The website http://www.omniglot.com/language/tonguetwisters/index.htm lists dozens of tongue twisters in dozens of languages. Here is a sampling:

French: Trois gros crapauds dans trois gros trous creux.
(Three fat toads in three big hollow holes.)

German: Kluge kleine Katzen kratzen keine Krokodile.
(Clever little cats don’t scratch crocodiles.)

Korean: kan-jang-kong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kang kong-jang-jang-ee-go, dwen-jang-kong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kong kong-jang-jang-ee-da.

(The president of the soy sauce factory is president Kang, and the president of the bean paste factory is president Kong.)

babySpanish: El bebé bebe bebidas.
(The baby drinks sodas.)

What’s the point?
Well, first, tongue twisters are good for your brain because they require us to focus and concentrate, (They are often used with stroke patients) and second, anything that makes us smile seems worth trying. Be of good cheer.


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