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Tongue-Twisters ~ Fun With Words ~ International Tongue-Twister Day

Updated on January 30, 2015

"Many an anemone sees an enemy anemone."

Tongue Twisters
Tongue Twisters | Source

Words Can Be Fun! And Laughter is Contagious!

There does not seem to be an agreement on when International Tongue Twister Day should be. Some say it is on the 7th of November, yet others state the 13th. What is it about tongue-twisters that fascinate us so much? Tongue-twisters often bring back fond childhood memories. Maybe you remember taking turns with your friends saying things like, “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers” or trying to say “toy boat” three times really fast. I know I do. It was great fun listening to my friends’ tongues, and my own, trying to get wrapped around the words without being tripped up, and often failing.

That just might be the secret right there – tongue-twisters make failure fun.

What is a Tongue-Twister?

Besides being a source of shared laughter and fun, what is a tongue-twister? It is a popular form of wordplay where a phrase, sentence, or verse which causes difficulties for someone to speak out loud and/or quickly is verbalized. A “twisted tongue” is often triggered by words containing similar sounds causing the tongue to get tripped up! defines a tongue-twister as, “A word or group of words difficult to articulate rapidly, usually because of a succession of similar consonantal sounds, as in Shall she sell seashells?”

Can you get your tongue around this one, "toy boat, toy boat, toy boat"?
Can you get your tongue around this one, "toy boat, toy boat, toy boat"? | Source

To get the total impact of a tongue-twister, three things are required. The speaker should:

  • Repeat the phrase or sentence multiple times
  • Speak as quickly as possible
  • Do so without getting tripped up or mispronouncing the words

Tongue-twisters are created through the use of a repetition of sounds, also known as alliteration. These sounds are usually similar but not identical, and they are organized in such a way as to trip up the tongue, providing lots of laughter and fun along the way!

Many tongue-twisters become humorous, or humorously vulgar, when they trip up the tongue. If you don’t believe me, try saying “shelf sitter” three times very fast. Warning: once you start laughing, you’ll never get it said!

"A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk."

Tongue Twisters Have a Purpose

Tongue twisters are more than a fun form of wordplay, however. Tongue twisters actually have a serious and functional use as well.

  • Speech therapists use tongue twisters to work with some speech defects or difficulties
  • Tongue twisters are used to practice pronunciation
  • English as a second language students use English tongue twister to improve their accent.
  • Actors also use them to acquire certain accents

When tongue twisters are used for these more serious uses, especially those dealing with speech difficulties, the tongue twister often focus on one consonant or vowel sound. For a listing of tongue twisters by sound, click here.

An example of a twister working on the “f” sound is: “Freshly-fried flying fish.” Try saying that one just one time really fast!

Tongue-Twisters Today and the not too Distant Past

The term “tongue-twister” seems to have originated in 1951 when Danny Kay recorded a song, Tongue Twisters, written by Sylvia Fine.

Another contemporary use of tongue-twisters is Dr. Seuss’ book, Fox in Socks, which is chock full of those delicious tongue tripping phrases.

Cary Grant even had a favorite tongue-twister, “black bug’s blood.”

I hope you have enjoyed our little jaunt investigating the tongue-twister. Whichever day you decide to celebrate it, on the 7th or the 13th, it is sure to be a day filled with laughter. Maybe you want to celebrate on both!

Grab the kids or enjoy these yourself. See if you can keep up!

“The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick.”

More Word Fun by this Author:

Fun Tongue Twister Sites:


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