Monday, February 21, 2011

With A Twist

The wildly popular movie The King’s Speech deals with the use of tongue-twisters in teaching England’s King George VI to conquer his stammer.  In the film his vocal coach prescribes this phrase:            

            “I have a sieve full of sifted thistles and a sieve full of  
             unsifted thistles, because I am a thistle sifter.”
Under what circumstances the King, having mastered this phrase, might be able to use it is not clear. Perhaps thistle-sifting is more pervasive in the British Isles than it is here.

It seems to me that we should concentrate on coming up with really useful tongue-twisters that we might able to slip into casual conversation at the corner bar or use the next time we’re making a speech to the PTA.  I mean such phrases as:

            Mirroring Marilyn Marlowe’s mercurial murmuring, 
            Muriel Marley merrily married Marlon Morley.

            The cheeky sheikh shocked sleek Chuck, shook slack 
            Chick, and sacked slick Shaq for schlepping schlocky 

            The plural of isthmus—is it isthmuses or isthmi?

And while we’re at it, we ought to learn a few foreign tongue-twisters that would put us in good stead when we’re overseas. Next time you’re in Paris, stop the nearest gendarme and confide in him:

            Didon dîna, dit-on, d’un dos du dodu dindon, don d'un 
            don du Dordogne, à qui Didon a dit: Donne, donc, 
            don, du dos d'un dindon.

What you will have told him (I think) is “Dido dined, they say, on the back of a fat turkey, the gift of a Spanish grandee from the Dordogne River region, to whom Dido said: ‘Give me, then, sir, a turkey’s back.’”  That should make your Parisian sojourn one to remember.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has a twisted tongue, caused by trying to uncap beer bottles without the use of an opener.  It does not stop his nattering:

            She sells seashells
            By the Seychelles seashore.
            The seashells she sells
            She sells by the score.

            He sells seashells,
            Seychelles seashells galore,
            She’ll say he sells
            His shells in a store.
            Sure, she sells shells,
            And she will sell more
            Than all the shells he sells
            In the Seychelles seashell store.

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