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She sells sea shells by the sea shore, but even she might be stumped by the toughest tongue twister ever.
International Tongue Twister Day is this Sunday and to celebrate, how about impressing your friends with a phrase that may leave them speechless? Go ahead, try to say it fast a few times:
“Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.”
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found this particular combination of words may be the most difficult tongue twister in the English language, tripping up volunteers so badly that some stopped talking all together.
"If anyone can say this [phrase] ten times quickly, they get a prize," said MIT psychologist Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel in 2013, when the findings were announced.
Why does your brain seem to lose control of your mouth when you try to say certain words or phrases quickly? It’s a question that continues to fascinate speech experts. It’s also a world-wide phenomenon: Every language has tongue twisters that stump its speakers.
For the MIT study, Shattuck-Hufnagel and her colleagues examined common English speech errors produced when people say certain words and phrases quickly. For example, try saying “toy boat” several times in a row and you’ll find it becomes “toy boyt,” while “top cop” becomes “cop cop.”
Insight into why a healthy brain produces such slip-ups may help researchers understand how it processes and plans speech. For all the talking we do, it’s a very complex and intricate undertaking for your body.
As you speak, you must coordinate movements of the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx, a study published in Nature points out. To help things along, the brain may sort sounds by which muscles need to move to produce them, such as front-of-the-tongue sounds (“sss”), back-of-the-tongue sounds (“ga”) and and lip sounds (“ma”).
“This implies that tongue twisters are hard because the representations in the brain greatly overlap,” author Edward Chang, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Nature.com.
Since your brain considers “sss” and “shh” both front-of-the-tongue sounds, it may mix them up and make the classic tongue twister “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” difficult to say. Most tongue twisters contain similar sounds.
Here are more challenging phrases to try:
- “Sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep sick” — Guinness World Records suggests this is the world's toughest tongue twister.
- “The seething sea ceaseth and thus the seething sea sufficeth us" — this is another difficult phrase the MIT researchers used in their study.
- "Red lorry, yellow lorry"
- "I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch"
- "You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York"
Not challenged enough? Try a famous Polish tongue twister:
“W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.”