The sequence is "How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck would?" I am wondering if repetition, particularly of the word "wood", would display symbolism or any other kind of literary device.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Hellion, Cascabel, Andrew Leach Feb 12 '17 at 20:58

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  • If the quote were written as "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" [note the last word!] it might be easier to parse. Woodchuck is a type of marmot and the verb chuck means throw. – Andrew Leach Feb 12 '17 at 18:50
  • The quote is written as said, with "would" at the ending - which is why I found it so confusing. I think it was done purposefully. – HooWoo Feb 12 '17 at 19:00
  • Or maybe my teacher misspelled it, though I don't think he would have. – HooWoo Feb 12 '17 at 19:01
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    Heh, I can't help but wonder if this question relates to whether rubber baby buggy bumpers have been approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. -- As a serious question (and ignoring spelling), I would have to say it is worded neither symbolically nor for emphasis. It is simply a tongue twister, worded so that the words will make grammatical sense yet be difficult to say together. – RichF Feb 12 '17 at 19:17
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    I apologize for the spam he caused. – HooWoo Apr 2 '17 at 19:01


https://www.grammarly.com/handbook/sentences/sentence-style/2/sentence-emphasis/ http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-symbolism.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_much_wood_would_a_woodchuck_chuck http://thepoetrypundit.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/alliteration-assonance-and-consonance.html

Does repetition in the following sequence of words display symbolism, emphasis, or both?

How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck would

This is an english tongue twister using mainly consonance and assonance (uck uck, ood ould). This would be used to warm up before a stage performance or as a fun tongue twister in a primary school english lesson.

There is no symbolism, the wood is referring to actual wood, the woodchuck is a small creature. There are no metaphor or allegory.

Position and repetition are the key tools for emphasis. I suppose that the repetition of the word "wood" implies that wood plays a strong part, also the position of the words "how much" indicates a possibly philosophical question.

However, there really is no depth here, there is no more symbolism or meaning here that there is with other tongue twisters such as "peter piper picked a peck of pickled pepper". There is no Peter, the pepper is not symbollic, the sentence is quite simply built to emphasize sounds, not hold any deeper poetical meaning.

Use of Would

If you teacher is being facetious and trying to play "would" for "wood" then the sentence could be viewed as:

  • How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck Would

If "Would" was a person or thing then the wood chuck could try and chuck them

  • How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could. Chuck would

If a period was placed after "could" then the sentence will terminate there implying "if a wood chuck was able to". The next short sentence with emphasis implies that someone called Chuck certainly would try it. Would being the conditional tense of will.

There was an old game that held a similar riddle:


A woodchuck could chuck no amount of wood since a woodchuck can't chuck wood.

But if a woodchuck could chuck and would chuck some amount of wood, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

Even if a woodchuck could chuck wood, and even if a woodchuck would chuck wood, should a woodchuck chuck wood?

A woodchuck should chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, as long as a wood chuck would chuck wood.

Which, is ridiculously abstract and if this is the answer then ask your teacher if they know the meaning of unreasonable or absurd.

  • I would say my teacher's a bit eccentric. – HooWoo Feb 14 '17 at 2:41
  • Well interesting at least :) – Bella Pines Feb 14 '17 at 8:47

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