Try saying the words "Peggy Babcock" five times fast. Can you do it?
Don't feel bad if the answer is no. Peggy Babcock is one of the hardest combinations of words to say in the English language.
I've been having a lot of fun with tongue twisters lately. They're great to read aloud with kids. Here's a recent favorite of mine from Orangutan Tongs by Jon Agee. I was amazed that I was able to mesmerize several 5th grade classes merely by saying the words below out loud (very, very fast).
Walter Witter called a waiter: "Waiter, over here!
I want some water, waiter. Water, waiter! Is that clear?
The waiter brought some water. Walter Witter shouted: "WRONG!
This water's really watered-down! I like my water strong
The waiter brought more water. Walter Witter was upset.
"This water's dry!" said Walter. "I like my water wet!
Bring me wetter water, waiter!" Walter Witter said.
The waiter brought a pitcherful and poured it on his head."
Did you find that one difficult? It's just a warm-up for Bubble Trouble, a terrific tongue twisting poem by Margaret Mahy. It was recently released as a picture book with illustrations by Polly Dunbar and it's probably the hardest book I've ever tried to read aloud. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's a sample:
"Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it caused a lot of trouble...
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way.
For it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table,
where it bobbled over Baby and it wafted him away."
And that's just the first page!
For more great tongue twisters, look no further than the good doctor. Seuss, that is. Open up Fox in Socks to one of my all time favorites, and "let's have a little talk about tweetle beetles:"
"When beetles fight these battles
in a bottle with their paddles and
the bottle's on a poodle and
the poodle's eating noodles...
they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle."
If you've mastered Fox in Socks, you can graduate to Dr. Seuss' Oh Say Can you Say? Amazingly, it's got even harder tongue twisters:
"Fritz needs Fred and Fred needs Fritz.
Fritz feeds Fred and Fred feeds Fritz.
Fred feeds Fritz with ritzy Fred food.
Fritz feeds Fred with ritzy Fritz food.
And Fritz, when fed, has often said,
"I'm a Fred-fed Fritz. Fred's a Fritz-fed Fred."
For the true classics, try Alvin Schwartz's book: A Twister of Twists, A Tangler of Tongues. (It's out of print, but you can find it in a library.) In addition to lots of fun tongue twisters, he also provides great notes and folklore history. I love the great tidbits of information he's uncovered. For example, Peter Piper originally appeared in an undated pamphlet called Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation. Here's the one from that pamphlet that we all know (there have been some slight variations over the years):
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper,
Where is the peck of pickled pepper that Peter Piper picked?
Each tongue twister in the pamphlet was about an unusual occupation and began with the a different letter . Here's the entry for Q. It's done in the exact same format as Peter Piper.
"Questing Quidnunc quizzed a queerish question.
Did Questing Quidnunc quiz a queerish question?
If Questing Quidnunc quizzed a queering queerish question,
what's the queerish question Questing Quidnunc quizzed?
I don't know about you, but I'm kind of grateful that Peter became more famous than Quidnunc.
Schwartz also provides a sample of one of the earliest known written tongue twisters, published in 1674, in Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae by John Wallis:
"When a Twister, a twisting, will twist him a twist
For the twisting of his twist, he three times doth intwist.
But, if one of the twists of the twist do untwist,
The twine that untwisteth, untwisted the twist."
For some great tongue twisty additions to well known classics and nursery rhymes, take a look at Ira Trapani's Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time. Here's a new stanza for Peter Piper:
"Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
But Patty Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers quicker.
Into a pickled pepper pot she packed the pack of peppers,
For Patty was a quicker pickled pepper packer-picker."
Enjoy tangling your tongue! And in the words of Dr. Seuss:
"Now is your tongue numb?"