In case you didn’t know, November 8 is International Tongue Twister Day. Here are bits of trivia about the world’s most famous tongue twisters that leave you speechless every time.
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,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Peter and his famous pickled peppers first appeared in print back in 1813 in John Harris’s Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation. Some spice enthusiasts also suggested that the Peter in this particular tongue twister refers to 18th century French horticulturalist Pierre Poivre. His surname is French for pepper, Piper was both Latin for pepper and a common British last name, and he was known for smuggling cloves from the Spice Islands (or Moluccas in grade school history). Apart from these ties, no concrete evidence was ever found to confirm the speculation.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Vaudeville performer Faye Templeton is credited for putting the woodchucking woodchuck in the map. The line was the chorus of a song he sang in 1903 in the Broadway musical The Runaways. “Ragtime” Bob Roberts covered it a year later for his own record and boosted its popularity. On how much wood could a woodchuck chuck (even though they cannot), a study by New York fish and wildlife technician named Richard Thomas found out that it could move “about 700 pounds (320 kg) on a good day, with the wind at his back.”
She sells seashells.
She sells seashells on the sea shore.
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
And if she sells seashells on the sea shore,
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
The “she” in this tongue twister is Mary Anning. Born on May 21, 1799 in Dorset, Southwest England, Anning inherited her father’s business of collecting sea shells and digging up fossils. She later dug up a fossil of an Ichthyosaur, a prehistoric stealthy sea giant that thrived for more than 250 million years. On a separate occasion, she dug up remains of Plesiosaurus and the Pterosaurs. This brought her and her brother worldwide fame. More importantly, it shed light into the idea of extinction, prompting scientists to think differently.
I scream, you scream
I scream, you scream,
We all scream for ice cream.
The history of this particular tongue twister is unclear. There have been a lot of comments throughout the 19th century, however, about how similar “ice cream” and “I scream” sounds. While it was used in 1905 by an ice cream freezer company in Pennsylvania, it’s biggest break came when it was included into a song of the same name in 1927. The Pennsylvanians recorded the song and it became a jazz standard in the ’40s.
This long, one-word tongue twister has a backstory that’s nothing short of drama. Most people associate the nonsense word with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoons from the 1964 movie Mary Poppins. But songwriters Barney Young and Gloria Parker begs to differ. They claimed to be the word’s creator and took the matters to court. The judge, however, threw out the case, citing that the tongue twister had been in common use in New York as far back as the ’30s.