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Tongue twister
December 8, 2013 8:48 AM   Subscribe

MIT Researchers Say They Have Created The Trickiest Tongue Twister To Date

Try and say “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” 10 times fast.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (75 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tough. Curd complicates.

But I think "toy boat" is still way trickier.
posted by chavenet at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't think it was that hard. I even tried it in my best Southie accent. Wicked easy.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:59 AM on December 8, 2013


That's not a tongue twister. Tongue twisters are supposed to make sense, and the twisted result should ideally be funny.

This is just a bunch of random words that sort of sound the same. A lot of the confusion comes not from the phonemes, but from trying to sort out what the words even are. Once you sort that out, it's not all that tricky.

/one smart fellow, he felt smart
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2013 [34 favorites]


Yeah, like Sys Rq says, that's not a tongue twister.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finally! It's about time those folks at MIT set aside their work on artificial intelligence, robotics, and physics and get on top of this.

Also, previous commenters who probably know way more about this than the people who researched this are obviously right.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:05 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


“If anyone can say this [phrase] ten times quickly, they get a prize,” said Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, a psychologist from MIT

[Hand goes up.]
If anyone can say this phrase ten times quickly, they get a prize
If anyone can say this phrase ten times quickly, they get a prize
If anyone can say this phrase ten times quickly, they get a prize

heh.
posted by 0 answers at 9:07 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


My assumption is that there is a practical application in speech therapy. Now I want pad thai.
posted by arcticseal at 9:08 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now say "Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel" ten times quickly.

I'm still going to go with "fresh horseradish" since I still haven't met anyone who can make it past five repetitions. This is a talented crowd, though, so I'm sure there's a Mefite who'll prove me wrong.
posted by vers at 9:09 AM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I still haven't met anyone who can make it past five repetitions
Ever seen Candyman?
posted by 0 answers at 9:12 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


May be it's just me but I found it trivially easy....
But 'Red leather, yellow leather' always breaks down after a couple of goes around ... and as for 'The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick" (the officially hardest according to Guinness I think) I have to really concentrate to say it even once, speaking slowly
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2013


Anyone heard "Gig whip" touted as the shortest tongue twister before?
posted by aesop at 9:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


She shells she shells down by the sheshore.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found these tongue twisters online:

I'm not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig pluckers' son,
But I'll pluck figs
Till the fig plucker comes.

Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Not a punt cut square,
Just a square cut punt.
It's round in the stern and blunt in the front.
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker's late.

I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:25 AM on December 8, 2013 [43 favorites]


Lulu lit la lettre lue à Lili et Lola alla à Lille où Lala lie le lilas. is, to me, the hardest to pronounce. Sure its in French, but it makesno more or less sense than the one "discovered" by MIT.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:32 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I found this variant trickier for me to say:

pad kid poured pulled curd cod
posted by sutt at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2013


"Peggy Babcock" is one of the tougher short ones I've tried.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


One word tongue twister: Statistics
posted by LionIndex at 9:40 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It might be hard to say -- I suspect it depends a bit on your accent with regards to vowels and rhotics -- but it's not a tongue twister because it doesn't make sense.
posted by jeather at 9:46 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2013 [23 favorites]


Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!
posted by The White Hat at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I accidentally made up one in the car the other day in regards to a recent FPP: dog puns and Dune pugs.
posted by maryr at 9:53 AM on December 8, 2013


In other news, the sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


MIT Researchers Say They Have Created The Trickiest Tongue Twister To Date

I have a lot of respect for MIT, but they also just do a ton of advertising compared to other universities.

Granted, "Eastern Kentucky University Researchers Say They Have Created The Trickiest Tongue Twister To Date" doesn't exactly read across the same way. BUT, I bet if EKU or anyone else did this over time the effect would be similar.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not hard to say at all. Now let's go back to the MIT lab and find something real to study...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2013


Hmm, I had no problem with this tongue twister, said it ten times faster than normal conversation with zero errors, then ten times super-fast with one error. I don't get their reasoning, and I don't see why this is harder than "The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick," or

Swan, swim over the sea,
Swim, swan, swim.
Swan, swim back again,
Well swum, swan.

...which I still can't do really fast, 40+ years after first hearing it.

Plus, it's meaningless...

> Lulu lit la lettre lue à Lili et Lola alla à Lille où Lala lie le lilas

Love it! For a moment I thought that alla should have been à la - but then I realized it was passé simple for "aller" (the passer simple is this very literary past tense). So clever!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2013


Also, previous commenters who probably know way more about this than the people who researched this are obviously right.

Well, it's hard to tell from this article what the research actually says. I really, really doubt the result of the research was anything close to, "This is the hardest tongue twister in the history of mankind!"

Looking at the abstract, it seems their conclusion ("there may be more than one mechanism underlying spoken errors, and that different materials may engage these mechanisms to different degrees") isn't all that different from the one I posited above.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking at the abstract

I didn't read it, but the mechanisms appear to be: monosyllabic, hard consonants, and tricky vowels that force you to change the posture of your mouth. This tongue twister becomes infinitely easier if you omit the final "d" in each word. Practice it that way, and your mouth learns the phrase more more easily. Give each word a melodic note and you're off to the races.
posted by phaedon at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found that really easy. Not a patch on "The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick"

Also, try saying "Peggy Babcock" ten times fast. Good luck not stumbling over that one.
posted by Decani at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2013


Ah, I see Peggy has been mentioned already.
posted by Decani at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Easy to twist tongues with six words. The real art is to do it in two syllables:
Pope Coke.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]




There is a class of tongue twisters that only work when shouted loudly ten times in a row. Try this one: "My mother and my brother blow men for ten dollars, my sister and my father do anal for eleven."
posted by humanfont at 10:35 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Leith police dismisseth us.
posted by temporicide at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unique New York.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now let's go back to the MIT lab and find something real to study...

This is just an interesting little byproduct from what sounds like a valid piece of research. The study of speech errors has been an important approach to understanding speech production since at least Vicki Fromkin's work several decades ago. It's not a goofy thing to study, and it's not like MIT researchers have been putting lots of energy into "creating" tricky tongue twisters. It's not their fault some university flack or Boston Magazine writer thought this would be a cute angle, and they don't deserve the inevitable Proxmire-style bullshit that people will throw at them.
posted by rodii at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's got nothing on, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite tongue twister:

SIPPING SCHLITZ THROUGH A STRAW

You're welcome.
posted by not_on_display at 11:11 AM on December 8, 2013


"One smart Fella, he felt smart"
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:33 AM on December 8, 2013


Interesting. "Peggy Babcock" is dead easy for me but I couldn't say "fresh horseradish" even once without tripping on it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:37 AM on December 8, 2013


Toy Boat is easy. Just say "Boat Toy" instead, with emphasis on the boat.

My favorite : I bought a box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuits and a biscuit mixer.
posted by evil otto at 11:52 AM on December 8, 2013


My most difficult: Argyle gargoyle.
posted by sourwookie at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2013


Big black bugs bled black blood
posted by jetsetsc at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2013


I just noticed it's actually kind of hard to say MetaFilter ten times fast.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sentences hard to speak are tongue twisters. Sentences hard to say in sign language are called finger fumblers. Every mode of communication has its own version of the tongue twister. A lot of Autocorrect Fails are just a new text-based version of the same phenomenon.
posted by painquale at 12:15 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just noticed it's actually kind of hard to say MetaFilter ten times fast.

If you can get a mod to say it backwards, though, they are forced back to the fantastical dimension from whence they were summoned.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Scurrilous Irving herds scurvied herbivorous birds.
posted by Jpfed at 12:36 PM on December 8, 2013


This an an interesting thing to study for many reasons. I'm honestly baffled by the "let's study something real" comments. Research into finding difficult phoneme patterns in languages has vast applications for neurology, speech pathology, cognitive science, etc.

Obviously everyone is very different, and I'm so glad so many folks on Metafilter had no problems with this tongue twister. Clearly you are incredibly superior and should feel extra awesome about your incredible intelligence and speech acumen. But not everyone has the same level of unconscious ease when it comes to speaking. So these studies are actually pretty interesting.

Here's what's interesting to me about the twister. The reason it's so difficult is because it features alternating word initial voiceless bilabial stops (/p/) with voiceless velar stops (/k/), with a voiced alveolar stop at each word final position (/d/). So you're basically having to move very quickly from the front of the mouth without voice, to the middle of the mouth with voice, to the back of the mouth without voice, and then back to the front. It's actually a relatively tricky muscle trick. There's a single vowel phoneme in the middle of each word (the lateral /l/ being somewhat debatable), but you'll notice the vowels are all over the vowel quad, so while you keep returning to these distantly placed (and primarily voiceless) but repeating consonants, you're still having to change the shape of the middle mouth in between (and give it voice), every time.

That's actually some serious articulator acrobatics.

It's actually and interestingly not so far removed from the "pukitah pukitah" exercise that's used almost universally to help diagnose articulatory and phonological impairments. Notice how each relies heavily on the voiceless bilabial and velar stops, with the chief difference being "pukitah" has a voiceless alvealor stop instead of a voiced alveolar stop, making it actually a bit easier than the tongue twister.

Whether or not it's semantically meaningful is not as important I think as whether or not it follows the syntax rules of the language, and indeed it does. It isn't a sentence in English, but it could be, at least acoustically.

Anyway, I can't wait to see the next part of the study, where they are measuring articulators with transducers. This kind of work has potential benefits for many folks who struggle with speech. I'm glad MIT is at it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


English, you so funny.
posted by hat_eater at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2013


Ah! Thank you Lutoslawski for explaining what's so hard about this tongue-twister. I'm sorry that I still don't get it. Is there an audible version somewhere online? The text-to-voice translation I've tried so far leave me baffled.
posted by hat_eater at 12:48 PM on December 8, 2013


Irish wristwatch.

You're welcome.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Tongue twisters just highlight the absurdity of saying the exact same thing ten times in a row. Unless you're a FoxNews 'commentator', where repetitions of several hundred times are a job requirement.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:56 PM on December 8, 2013


Clearly you are incredibly superior and should feel extra awesome about your incredible intelligence and speech acumen.

You noticed!

I do agree that it's interesting research, and the "world's hardest tongue twister" wasn't meant seriously if it was in fact used by the researchers and not made up by the journalist. But also the discussion of what tongue twisters mean -- and I would continue to argue that this is not a tongue twister, despite it having tricky pronunciation issues -- is interesting.

I wonder how the sentence compares with a similar one using b/t/g instead. Did they find it easier to create an almost English sentence with p/d/k, or is there some reason to have more voiceless (because it's between vowels, maybe)? Given that it is fairly consistently CVCVCV, maybe p/t/k would have been difficult.

It seems to be studying something specific which is why the difficult s/sh/f/v/th sounds are excluded, though it's in some ways much harder to go between those.
posted by jeather at 1:09 PM on December 8, 2013


Ha. Okay okay.

I'm fairly certain they went with the word initial/final voiceless phonemes because it makes you switch to voicing for the vowels in between, which is actually kind of difficult. Takes an extra brain step.

I too am curious however to see how this would compare to a similar construction with fricatives instead of stops. The fricatives require a more difficult mouth shape, but require less muscle involvement to create the requisite pressure differences like the stops do, e.g. it's easier to "flow" through fricatives. So the stops create this very clunky pattern. But yeah, comparing this same construction to a similar one with /s/sh/f/z would be pretty interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:16 PM on December 8, 2013


Interesting. This is much easier if I read each word as I speak it.
posted by effugas at 1:24 PM on December 8, 2013


But then why switch to voiced alveolar -- voicing is very easy between two vowels, especially if people just flap them (as North Americans tend to do, though not all dialects will turn t's into flaps, many more turn d's).

I also haven't mapped out the vowels, though I'm not sure if the vowel order matters much or if it was chosen to create the almost-grammatical sentence.

There are a lot of really interesting directions I can see taking this research into.
posted by jeather at 1:30 PM on December 8, 2013


Daddy hippopotamus, Mommy hippopotamus, Child hippopotamus

Yes, I know; it's easy. Try it in Japanese, 10x, quickly:

papakaba mamakaba kokaba
papakaba mamakaba kokaba
papakaba mamakaba kokaba
.
.
posted by woodblock100 at 1:54 PM on December 8, 2013


Fresh fried flesh.
Flash-fried fresh flesh.

(Every time I see five fresh fish's username I think of these, and just now I had a hard time remembering them because my brain got stuck on "five fresh fish." Which is also not so easy to say, although it would be harder if he were fried.)
posted by Westringia F. at 2:02 PM on December 8, 2013


Well, it's no “Iqaqa laziqikaqika kwaze kwaqhawaka uqhoqhoqha”. I suspect that even “That bloke's back brake block broke” gives it a fair run.
posted by scruss at 2:13 PM on December 8, 2013


I used to pen the occasional tongue twister. My favorite original was "Uncle Bundy undid bungeed undie bundles."
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:29 PM on December 8, 2013


I like, "She stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him hiccuping, amicably welcoming him in." Acting classes!
posted by lauranesson at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, a night in a dive bar netted us: "Roller Blade brand roller blades."
posted by lauranesson at 4:07 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did it six times and got bored because it was so easy - just didn't see the point in hitting the magical 10. MIT need to reassess their priorities.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:15 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unique New York.

Back when WNEW-FM was 1. located in New York and 2. a talk radio station, the Ron & Fez Show sometimes played a call-in trivia game named "You Know You Need Unique New York". In order to play the game, however, callers first had to say the name and get it right.

They often took a few calls before getting to the actual trivia question.
posted by Spatch at 4:23 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks to a combination of speech therapy and diction lessons I can totally murder 90% of tounge twisters if I don't mind sounding like Katherine Hepburn for a while.
posted by The Whelk at 4:30 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think 10 times is way too high a bar: my threshold for challenging tongue twisters is 3-5 times fast. There's been some really classics already, surprised no one's mentioned "black bug's blood".
posted by smoke at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2013


Wow, smoke, that's actually the toughest I've tried. I can barely make it through slowly.
posted by sourwookie at 4:58 PM on December 8, 2013


I had to learn tongue twisters in Korean language school back in the day. An easy one -- 내가그린 기린그림 (Naega geurin girin geurim) The picture of the giraffe that I drew. It's similar to the MIT one because the difficulty lies in the slight variations between the vowels with the similarity in the consonants.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:14 PM on December 8, 2013


30 Rock nailed it years ago. Not a tongue twister, but the two worst words in the English language, put together: rural juror.
posted by zardoz at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2013


zardoz, you beat me by mere seconds!
posted by Zerowensboring at 7:32 PM on December 8, 2013


The English "red lorry yellow lorry" can get tricky. "Rural juror" is actually fine in English English, of course.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:20 PM on December 8, 2013


Rural Juror
posted by The Whelk at 11:30 PM on December 8, 2013


I did not make it through once without stumbling.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:56 PM on December 8, 2013


This tongue twister in Czech has a delightful semantic meaning:

Strč prst skrz krk

"Stick your finger through your throat."

Vowels are for sissies.

(Article and pronunciation sample available here).
posted by pharaohmagnetic at 7:33 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


contrarily, this French tongue twister, which is ALL vowels (plus the "s" sound):

si ces six sangsues sont sur ses sourcils sans soucer son sang, ces six sangsues sont sans succès

and this one, which is just plain fun:

Les chaussettes de l'archiduchesse sont-elles sèches? Archi-sèches!

(if these six bloodsuckers are on his eyebrows without sucking his blood, these six bloodsuckers are unsuccesful; Are the socks of the archduchess dry? Totally dry!)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:46 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


My fave Swedish one:
"Sju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor på det sjunkande skeppet Shanghai" - Seven seasick sailors were nursed by seven beautiful nurses on the sinking ship of Shanghai (Pronunciation on YT)
posted by pony707 at 6:01 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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