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Two tropers tarried to talk "tongue-twister" topic's techniques. Tropers' tongues twisted till tropers' tangled tongues tied totally taut. Talking troubles taught tropers twain to tackle tortuous tongue-twisters tentatively.

In plain language, a Tongue-Twister is a sentence or phrase that's meant to be difficult to say, generally because it incorporates rhymes, near-rhymes, alliteration or all three. Sometimes these phrases are constructed so that the errors which crop up, when (mis)stating them aloud, generate unintentional swear-words. A tongue-twister is generally easier to say when speaking slowly; often, short ones will be accompanied by a challenge to say them three times fast.

These sayings occur both as works in themselves, and as features of larger works. Often, when a tongue twister is employed within a broader work, it's as a comedic element focusing on just how hard it is to say the phrase properly. Both in Real Life and in fiction, they can be used to practice enunciation in speech therapy and oratory training.

Interestingly, an equivalent concept exists in sign languages, in which difficult-to-sign phrases are known as "finger fumblers".

A sister trope of Cannot Spit It Out.

Typical tongue twisters:

  • William Poundstone declared this to be the most challenging tongue-twister in the English language:

  The seething sea ceaseth and thus the seething sea sufficeth us.

  • This old song, the first line of which is a well-known example:

 She sells sea shells on the sea-shore,

The shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure.

For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore

Then I'm sure she sells sea-shore shells.

  • Just try to rattle off the following without an error:

 Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.

The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter

And made her batter bitter.

But a bit of better butter makes better batter.

So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter

Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better.

    • Patty Maloney played Betty Botter in The Mother Goose Video Treasury in 1987.
  • This submission won a contest in Games magazine in 1979:

 Shep Schwab shopped at Scott's Schnapps shop;

One shot of Scott's Schnapps stopped Schwab's watch.

  • Some high-speed examples, which become tongue twisters if said quickly and repeatedly:
    • A Proper Copper Coffee Pot.
      • This one inspired a tongue-tangling song by the folk band Trout Fishing In America.
    • Betty Bopper's battering batton made Bertie Bopper bite her.
    • Cecily thought Sicily less thistly than Thessaly.
    • Irish wristwatch.
    • Peggy Babcock.
    • The bog above Bob Gorman's bog.
    • Pleasant mother pheasant plucker.
    • Red Leather, Yellow Leather.
      • (Alternately): Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry.
    • Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper.
    • Smiley shlug with Shloer.
    • Mad Man.
    • Unique New York.
    • City Shellfish.
    • Toy boat.
  • Some other classics:

 Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers --

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Then where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

 How much wood would a woodchuck chuck

If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  • According to at least one edition of the Guiness Book of World Records, the world's hardest tongue twister (or at least in English) is:

 The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick.

  • "Fuzzy Duck" and "Duckie Fuzz" will eventually make the speaker mess up and say "fuck".
    • The woodchuck example above is also intended to do this, as is the "pheasant plucker" variant.
  • A German one that translates quite well:

 Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze.

becomes in English:

Fisher(man) Fritz fished fresh fish, fresh fish fished fisher(man) Fritz

  • Announcers' tests, used to determine if someone has a suitable speaking voice for radio or narration, often include tongue-twisters. A classic example requires reciting the following, from memory, without an error:

Tongue-tangling in tales:

  • Dr. Seuss' Fox In Socks is made up of examples of this trope.
  • Practically everything that comes out of V's mouth in V for Vendetta qualifies. One wonders how many takes it must've taken to produce his dialogue for the film...
  • Non-alliterative example: In It, Stuttering Bill's speech therapist has him recite "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts". This awkward sentence becomes something of a confidence-building mantra for Bill.
  • Actors often use these to warm up for a performance; if someone is about to go onstage (in-universe or otherwise), you might see them preparing by speaking one of these aloud.
  • In The Brady Bunch, little Cindy was attempting to get rid of her lisp:

 Cindy: She sells seashells by the seashore. She sells seashells by the seashore. She sells seashells by the seashore.

Marcia: Cindy, would you mind practicing somewhere else? Arithmetic is kind of hard.

Cindy: So are S's.

 2D!Doof: Boy borg. Try saying that five times fast. Boyborg, Boyborg, Boyborg, Boyborg, Boyborg...I guess maybe it's not that hard to say.

  • These are used as teaching tools in My Fair Lady: "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen."
  • A variant of the "announcers' test" example, above, appears in the 1997 novel Matters of Chance by Jeannette Haien:

 One good hen

Two ducks

Three cackling geese

Four plump partridges

Five Limerick oysters

Six pairs of Don Alphonso tweezers

Seven hundred Macedonian horseman [sic] dressed in full battle array

Eight sympathetic, apathetic, diabetic old men on crutches

Nine brass monkeys from the Sacred Sepulchres of Ancient Egypt

Ten lyrical, spherical heliotropes from the Iliad Missionary Institute

  • The Pheasant Plucking Song
    • Fred Colon, of the Discworld City Watch novels, was once in a military regiment called the Pheasant Pluckers. In reminiscing, he recalls how the regimental song was a bit difficult to sing correctly.
  • Edward "Eddy J" Lemberger's The Tongue Twister Song!
  • In episode 14 of Bakemonogatari, Koyomi Araragi deals with Black Hanekawa (Tsubasa Hanekawa possessed by a male bakeneko she refers to as a "meddlesome cat"), whose appearance, demeanor, and actions get a rise out of Araragi. He then asks her to repeat, "Can you imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?" Not only does she repeat the tongue twister flawlessly, but she finds the time to throw in her cat-based Verbal Tic as well. Araragi is quite impressed.

 Black Hanekawa: "Can mew imyagine an imyaginyary mewnyagerie mewnyager imyagining mewnyaging an imyaginyary mewnyagerie?"

  • On Thirty Rock, Jenna starred in a film called "The Rural Juror", which no one can pronounce without it sounding like gibberish.
  • In one of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, a fictional character gets Thursday to try to say one, and is quite intrigued by her inability, because fictional characters have no trouble with them.
  • There are numerous tongue twisters in the Pinky and The Brain episode "You Said a Mouseful", wherein Brain attempts to put helium into hacky-sack sack-kicker shoes in a Hackensack factory.

 Brain: You must slit the sixth sick sheet slitter's son's sheet, secure it next to the toy boat from the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kickers' picnic in Secaucus, stretch it past the sack pickers' station and the sock plucker's chute, and pick a sack, pluck a sock, and flick the plug, so I can put the pea in the plucked sock with the picked sack for ballast and bounce it off the rubber baby buggy bumper, into the Parker Packard purple pewter pressure pump.

  • In an early episode of Scooby Doo, the normally Comically Serious Velma challenges her friends to say, "Something's thumping," three times fast. Shaggy doesn't even want to say it once.
  • The game's not out yet as of this post, but The Last Crown (sequel to The Lost Crown: A Ghosthunting Adventure) will apparently include the phrase "powerful paranormal phenomena", which the creator's blog suggests gave voice actress Emma Harry some Real Life Tongue-Twister issues.
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