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Some English Tongue Twisters Posted by on Jun 18, 2020 in English Language, Speaking English

Recently, one of our subscribers suggested that tongue twisters can be both helpful and fun when learning a language and I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the suggestion, Amy!

Image by Madhurima Handa from Pixabay

I also believe that tongue twisters are a great way to exercise your ability to enunciate, or pronounce, properly. You may know that actors and singers use them as warm-up exercises before going on stage. I’ve gone through many different tongue twisters in my years and have a collection of favorites. Some are funny, some are challenging, and some just seem to stick in my memory. I once wrote a play in which one character is constantly switching from one tongue twister after another before appearing on the radio, while two other characters comment on his skills. The audience loved it. The actor who had to work his way through them all? Not so much.

What makes a good tongue twister? They should all make you work on your ability to push out particular sounds in the sentences. They should make sense. I also expect a tongue twister to contain alliteration, the conspicuous repetition of sounds and letters in adjoining words or phrases. Many of the best ones are harder than they look.

Here, then, are some of the gems in my collection of English language tongue twisters. Remember, the trick is to say them at least five times, and faster every time. Good luck!

 

What a to-do to die today, at a minute or two to two.

A thing distinctly hard to say, but harder still to do.

For they’ll beat a tattoo, at twenty to two,

A rat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tattoo.

And a dragon will come when he hears the drum,

At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

 

Many mumbling mice make merry music in the midnight’s moonlight.

 

You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York.

 

Thistle sticks stick to thistle sticks, thus sit sixty-six thousand and six thistle sticks.

 

Any noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster most.

 

I am not a pheasant plucker, I’m a plucky pheasant plucker’s son,

But I’ll probably be plucking pheasants when the pheasant plucker’s gone.

 

Perhaps the greatest source of tongue twisters comes from the pen, and unusual mind, of William Schwenck (W.S.) Gilbert. The comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan have some of the most challenging verses for any singer. My favorite comes from “The Mikado.” In this song, three characters debate which of them should have the patriotic “honor” of being executed to please the Emperor. Good luck.

 

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,

In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,

Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,

From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,

In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,

Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,

From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

A dull, dark dock, a life-long lock,

A short, sharp shock, a big black block!

To sit in solemn silence in a pestilential prison,

And awaiting the sensation

From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

If you have a favorite tongue twister or vocal warm-up, I’d love for you to share it in the comment box below.

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