I seem to be more stumble-tongued these days. Can you lose diction as you get older? I used to love tongue twisters, and apparently need to sharpen my skills in order to sharpen my tongue (in a positive way).
I was never a “She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore” type at the best of times. Instead of saying “Truly Rural” repeatedly, I would recite the lyrics to the 1974 Reunion hit “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me).” A popular radio contest at the time was seeing if a caller could sing the song correctly and at tempo. Check out the video on YouTube, take a deep breath and see if you can keep up. It will be three and a half of the most enjoyable minutes you will ever spend:
“B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers, Lonnie Mack and twangin’ Eddy, here’s my ring we’re goin’ steady, Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire,
Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction, Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin’ hotter, Sammy’s cookin’, Lesley Gore and Ritchie Valens, end of story, Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama, Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry, Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin’, Life is a rock but the radio rolled me, Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa) Life is a rock but the radio rolled me, At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie.” And that is just the first stanza.
Fun, am I right? If you like the more traditional tongue twister, try “How can a clam cram in a clean cream can,” or “I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch.”
Did you know Eminen raps 11.4 syllables per second in the song “Rap God?” And those words are definitely not “Eleven benevolent elephants.”
REM gives it a try with “It’s The End of the World as We Know It.” Here is a snippet:
“The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide, Mount St. Edelite, Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs, Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom, You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right. It’s the end of the world as we know it And I feel fine.” Any song that references Leonard Bernstein is a hit in my book.
One I had never heard of before while researching this column was the passage, “Something in a thirty-acre thermal thicket of thorns and thistles thumped and thundered threatening the three-D thoughts of Matthew the thug – although, theatrically, it was only the thirteen-thousand thistles and thorns through the underneath of his thigh that the thirty-year-old thug thought of that morning.”
If you want to race for the linguistic Gold, the Guinness World Record for toughest tongue twister is the sadistic “The Sixth Sick Sheikh’s Sixth Sheep’s Sick.”
If you would like to start more simply, repeat “Selfish Shellfish” several times. After all, you have to crawl before you walk.