In the late 19th century, a series of tongue twisters were created to help students perfect their pronunciation in a fun and amusing way. Today, these sayings are still fun and recited often by adults and children alike, even if they have lost their pedagogical purpose. Here are some of the oldest that have been handed down through the generations.
|She sells sea shells by the sea shore. |
|She sells sea shells at the sea shore;|
|At the sea shore she sells sea shells.|
|She sells sea shells on the sea shell shore.|
|The sea shells she sells are sea shore shells,|
|Of that I’m sure.|
|If neither he sells sea shells, nor she sells sea shells,|
|Who shall sell sea shells? Shall sea shells be sold?|
|Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers|
|A pack 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?|
|A skunk sat on a stump,|
|The stump thunk the skunk stunk,|
|The skunk thunk the stump stunk.|
The last of these was originally part of a collection that included every letter of the alphabet. Peter Piper is the only popular surviving tongue twister of the series that is still commonly recited today.
Some newer tongue twisters are designed to make people stumble in speech and say words that they do not intend to, or that are not present in the actual saying:
|One smart fellow he felt smart.|
|Two smart fellows they both felt smart.|
|Three smart fellows they all felt smart.|
|I am not a pheasant plucker,|
|but a pheasant plucker's son.|
|And I’m only plucking pheasants|
|’Til the present pheasant plucker's come.|
|Mrs. Obbly Doobly had a square cut punt. |
|Not a cut punt square but a square cut punt. |
|It was round in the middle and square in the front|
|Mrs. Obbly Doobly had a square cut punt.|
|I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.|
Some have developed into jokes by taking advantage of the slur of one word into another, characteristic of most tongue twisters. For example:
|If a shepherd had thirty sick sheep, and one died, how many would be left? |
The answer is 29, which is obvious when you are reading the joke. When someone speaks the question quickly however, it sounds as if he is saying “thirty six,” and so the amusing, incorrect response would be 35.
Another combination tongue twister-joke is a knock knock joke.
|Knock knock. Who’s there?|
|I’m a pile up.|
|I’m a pile up who?|
|Don’t be so hard on yourself. |
Again, the written version of this joke isn’t very humorous, but the phonetic result when “I’m a pile up who?” is spoken quickly is the punch line!