Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A tongue-twister is a phrase in any language that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly. Tongue-twisters rely on similar but distinct phonemes (e.g., s and sh). Listen to Betty Botter for an example of a tongue twister.
Many tongue-twisters use a combination of alliteration and rhyme. They have two or three sequences of sounds, then the same sequences of sounds with some sounds exchanged. For example, She sells sea shells on a sea shore, so the shells she sells are sure sea shore shells.
Some tongue-twisters are specifically designed to cause the inadvertent pronunciation of a profanity if the speaker stumbles verbally. An example in Polish is ząb, zupa zębowa, dąb, zupa dębowa (a tooth, tooth soup, an oak, oak soup). The word dąb forces an unsuspecting victim to further utter dupa dębowa (oak arse).
A similar one in English is one about a seamstress who "fits and tucks."
Some foreign loanwords contain unfamiliar constructs, which are used in tongue-twisters. For example, Finnish strutsin perhe (the family of an ostrich) has the consonant cluster str, whereas consonant clusters do not occur in native Finnish words. Repeated, this might be pronounced as strutsin perse (ostrich's arse).
Something that might be regarded as a type of tongue-twister is a shibboleth, that is, a phrase in a language that is difficult for someone who is not a native speaker of that language to say. An example is Georgian baqaqi ts'khalshi qiqinebs (a frog croaks in the water), in which “q” is a sort of gulping sound.
For more examples, see List of tongue-twisters.
Tongue twister ís also a term for a sexual technique. For more information, see cunnilingus.
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