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Tongue Twisters

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Tongue twisters are a barbaric but hilarious form of entertainment designed around the simple fact that languages are hard.

Languages are rarely well-designed. Those that are, like Esperanto, sound so awful and are so complex only a small core group of zealots ever want to use them. No matter how tightly the language-lawyers try to keep control over language specifications1, the end-users keep subverting things. They invent new words and generally pervert the language by altering the meaning of words2 or adopting words from other languages3. Computer terms are among the most common English words which are now being adopted into all languages.

These peculiarities at least leave room for some simple fun. Many languages have a mixture of sounds, some that are easy to pronounce, some that are complex, and some that are only difficult when combined with others. Other languages are just flat-out jawbreakers and have no easy sounds at all4.

The fun of tongue twisters is inventing strings and combinations of sounds that are hard to say in series. The tongue twister should be repeated multiple times - anywhere from three to ten times is common - as quickly as possible, usually all in one breath. For added effect and bonus points, the good ones are designed in such a way as to trip the tongue into saying bits of absurdity, or even outright crudity, instead of the intended phrase. Such as:

  • Fat frogs flying past fast.
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry.
  • Chop shops stock chops.
  • Tim, the thin twin tinsmith.
  • The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick.

  • I'm not a pheasant plucker,
    I'm a pheasant plucker's son,
    and I'm only plucking pheasants
    til the pheasant plucker comes.
1In France they have a committee that decides if a word can become part of the French language. This leaves them in the strange position of having an official and an unofficial language.2For instance in England the word 'pants' is now used to describe something that it is horrid or unacceptable.3In Canada the Quebecois mix English and French together, eg 'Très grande party last weekend, eh?'.4Welsh being a prime example of a jaw-breaking, throat-ripping language.

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