Try saying this out loud: “Does this shop stock short socks with spots?” Not so easy? That’s because it’s a tongue twister. Tongue twisters are fun verbal exercises full of words that rhyme or sound similar. People will usually try to say them quickly, several times in a row without making any mistakes.
Why They Work
There are plenty of well-known tongue twisters. One of the most famous ones is “She sells seashells by the seashore.” Here, the S sound in sells and sea alternates with the sh sound in she and shells. When you say it out loud, it’s easy to mix up the sounds, despite your brain knowing what it wants to say.
Another famous one is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” This tongue twister relies on alliteration, or the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of each word. Moreover, several of the words also contain the K sound. When you repeat it out loud, the similar sounding words (pick and peck, and Piper and peppers) can easily get switched.
Sometimes tongue twisters are based on assonance (words that don’t rhyme but contain the same vowel sounds). One example of this is “Ghosts know the most gross jokes.” Here, five of six words contain a long O sound. The O usually remains intact when you repeat the sentence aloud, but the consonant sounds tend to get muddled together.
Some tongue twisters are only two words long. But if the two words sound very similar, repeating them multiple times is difficult.
Sometimes entire stories can be made of tongue twisters. Here’s one from The Jingle Book by Carolyn Wells: “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter; / ‘But,’ said she, ‘the butter’s bitter! / If I put it in my batter / It will make my batter bitter. / But a bit o’ better butter / Will make my batter better.’ / Then she bought a bit o’ butter / Better than the bitter butter, / Made her bitter batter better. / So ’twas better Betty Botter / Bought a bit o’ better butter.”
Three Times Fast
Here are some famous tongue twisters. Try to say them three times fast without making any mistakes:
- Please pass the peas.
- Irish wristwatch
- Rubber baby buggy bumpers
- How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Tongue twisters, whether just two words or several sentences, are a fun game to play with friends. They’re also great vocal exercises to do before speaking in public. You could even choose to enter one of many tongue twister contests held every year, where you could win a yellow yo-yo or a peck of pickled peppers.