Monday is International Tongue Twister Day and if you’re looking for a mouthful, you could celebrate by talking about a sheikh who isn’t feeling well. He’s sixth in line and has some livestock, it seems, and one of his sheep is also under the weather. To explain all this you could say:
The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick.
That phrase was featured by Guinness World Records as the most difficult tongue twister in the English language in 1974, the last year the organization tracked tongue twisters.
It’s still pretty hard to say today, but you can try a hack recommended by Eliza Simpson, a dialect coach in New York.
“I look at the tongue twister and I think of an image for each word,” Simpson told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. “And then as I’m going through the tongue twister, it’s like, I’m in my mind literally swiping through flashcards of images. I go from image to image to image. And I find this is the way to get my muscles to do what my brain is asking.”
Simpson says tongue twisters are challenging and beneficial for brains.
“Tongue twisters are important because they combine two things that help humans learn. They combine repetition and they can find an element of surprise and fun.”
One particularly old and well-known tongue twister dates back to at least 1836, if not earlier. It appeared in Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled Peppers:
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled Peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled Peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled Peppers Peter Piper picked?
Take a try at 10 of our favorite tongue twisters:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
She sees cheese.
Chop shops stock chops.
If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?
Seventy-seven benevolent elephants
A loyal warrior will rarely worry why we rule.
There was a minimum of cinnamon in the aluminum pan.
How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
A pessimistic pest exists amidst us.
Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.
Find more from where those came from at EF, Mondly, Fatherly and Mental Floss. That last one was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be particularly tough to say 10 times fast.
Another way to mark the day: Watch Ammonite, the 2020 movie about Mary Anning, a self-taught paleontologist who was known for her historic fossil discoveries and the possible inspiration for the tongue-twister: “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
Jessica Green and Leone Lakhani produced and edited the audio segment.