Of late, I have been reading and saying out loud a few tongue twisters in English after picking them up in one of the Facebook shares. While tongue twisters probably exist in all languages ever spoken, I have always considered them as a way of having fun with the language and some lollygagging with your friends. Yet some recent reads{1}{2} that I have done seem to suggest otherwise. That tongue twisters in English can play a big role in improving speech and articulation.

  • Were tongue twisters in English (also) created for the purpose of speech training?

  • Can regularly saying tongue twisters aloud help in improving my articulation?

  • While most articles suggest what a tongue twister is, none of them seems to clearly explain how they came into existence. What is the origin of tongue twisters?

The Wikipedia article on Tongue Twisters doesn't appear to have any support towards this argument (that tongue twisters have serious purposes beyond "for the lulz"!).


{1} - Tongue Twisters as a speech training aid

{2} - In Speech Therapy

  • 1
    Toungue twisters appear to be beneficial not only to improving speech but also to other fields of study: 1)psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/… 2)dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2282390/…
    – user66974
    Jan 30 '16 at 16:10
  • @Josh61 - So they were intended solely for fun but later used for speech improvement, when folks realized their real powers?
    – BiscuitBoy
    Jan 30 '16 at 17:23
  • I could find no evidence that toungue twisters were originally invented for therapeutical reasons. I think they were initially natural word games whose properties for other uses, apart from fun, followed later.
    – user66974
    Jan 30 '16 at 19:34
  • 1. That A plays a big role in B does not imply that A was intended for B. 2. Why a particular tongue twister was invented, let alone why all were, is primarily opinion-based.
    – Drew
    Jan 31 '16 at 3:34

It appears that tongue twisters were originally invented for fun, and were later used for improving speech articulation: Britannica.com:

  • Tongue twister, word or group of words made difficult to articulate by a close sequence of similar consonantal sounds. Tongue twisters are often passed on for generations, becoming a rich part of folklore. Two widely known English-language twisters are “She sells sea shells beside the seashore” and one beginning “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Some are more difficult to enunciate—“The sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.”

  • Tongue twisters have been recommended for curing hiccups and for curing lisps and other speech defects. They are also used for testing the fit of dentures and for screening applicants for broadcasting positions.

The is no mention in Etynomline of their origin as a medical 'device': Toungue-twister (n.):

  • 1875, in reference to an awkward sentence, 1892 of a deliberately difficult-to-say phrase, from tongue (n.) + agent noun from twist (v.). The first one called by the name is "Miss Smith's fish-sauce shop."

Origin of two famous Tongue Twisters

  • The tongue twister “she sells seashells by the seashore” was inspired by a woman named Mary Anning, who spent her time gathering seashells from beaches to sell to tourists.

  • "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” also had a real-world origin. There was an actual person whom Peter Piper was based on: a French pirate and horticulturalist named Pierre Poivre

  • 2
    A child of five whom we knew was identified by her teacher as having a speech impediment (which had completely escaped her parents). It says a lot for state education in the UK that they not only notice things like this, but that they provide therapists. She was given the most intricate tongue twisters to practise. One of them I remember,being Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not, we'll weather the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not. The good news was that she eventually went to Cambridge and took a First (but not in speech or drama)
    – WS2
    Jan 30 '16 at 18:23

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