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What was it that you said?

By Margaret BrennanPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
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What was that you said?


Tongue twisters have been around, as far as I’ve discovered, since the late 1800’s. Some were created to aid the teacher in assisting the children with speech impairments. Others were created just for fun.

I’m going to list these in no particular order.

Let’s begin with Peter Piper and his peck of pickled peppers.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers would Piper Pick?

This is the version that was recited by many children during my childhood, and yet, it is NOT the original. The original goes like this:

Peter Piper picked a peck of picked peppers; A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked; if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

I have no idea why it was shortened but the version of my youth was a tongue-tangler without adding those extra words.

The original version was created around 1813 and intended to help children obtain perfect pronunciation. It was never intended to be recited at record speed to twist our tongues – and yet the shortened version did just that!


Second in line is the woodchuck.

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

My first reaction would be, how the heck would I know? And secondly, why would I even care?

But that’s my warped sense of humor. Let’s learn a bit about its history.

It’s not known for certain who wrote this little tongue twister, but back in 1903, it was made famous by Fay Templeton who sang it in her Vaudeville act. The song (not the tongue twister) was set to music by Robert Hobart Davis and Theodore Morse.

To this day, it’s still a favorite of those who enjoy twisting their tongues in knots. Well, okay, we can’t really do that, but you know what I mean. Wait, I’ve seen photos of people who can twist their tongues. Yikes!


The Seashell twister!

She sells seashells on the seashore. The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure. And if she sells seashells, on the seashore, I’m sure the shells she sells seashore shells, I’m sure.

Okay, throw a mermaid at me. I added a few words but not many. What I wrote is what we recited as kids. For some reason, the extra words were added to give the twister a more rhythmic cadence.

According to legend, it was written to bring focus to paleontologist, Mary Anning who was a fossil hunter. It’s been rumored that she is responsible for scientific achievements from discovering the first articulated plesiosaur and being among the first to identify fossilized poop. (Can’t imagine why anyone would want to identify that but, hey, I’m a writer and not a poop identifier.)

Whether the rumor of the tongue twister was created to honor Ms. Anning is true or not, I’d like to think it is.

However, there is another story that concerns selling seashells.

It seems that back in the late 1800’s, a young girl would wander the beach near her home and gather shells. A prominent woman from the nearby town saw the young girl and remarked how lovely the shells were. Not wanting to get her clothes dirty, she offered a good deal of money to the girl providing she’d clean the shells and arrange them on a small plate that the woman could display in her home.

The young girl, knowing her family’s financial situation, eagerly agreed. Soon the girl was selling shells as fast as she could gather them. Town folk eventually made their way to the seashore where they’d find her gathering up her wares. Her father erected a small wooden shack where the girl could sell her shells.

Both are beautiful, romantic legends. I guess it’s up to the individual to decide which you like best.


Almost done, here. How many have you tried? Well, here’s another.

The only information I’ve been able to find out about this twister is that it was originally created to help children with speech impairments and to encourage their young minds to focus on words. Originally, it was to be said slowly so the child could concentrate. As the child became more familiar with each word, she or he was encouraged to recite it faster.

How many yaks could a yak pack pack if a yak pack could pack yaks?

It encouraged a child to pronounce each word carefully and for those who didn’t know what a yak was, the teacher kept her dictionary at hand.


And finally, (we can forget about the drum roll) the last of my wandering, wondering mindless ditties.

I slit the sheet; the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.

I mention this one because the boys I grew up with had a hilarious time always making sure they messed up the last word. They always tried to look innocent. “Hey, I messed up. Didn’t mean to.”

Yes, you really need to say this as fast as possible – without messing up.

While I have absolutely no idea who wrote this (and yes, I tried desperately to find the author), it remains one of the most popular tongue twisters.

Maybe it’s still popular because of that last infamous word. Who knows?

All I know is that this is the end of my “s*it” for today.

Hope you enjoyed a bit my warped world.

Please feel free to leave a comment – and / or a new tongue twister for me to try and master.


About the Creator

Margaret Brennan

I am a 77-year old grandmother who loves to write, fish, and grab my camera to capture the beautiful scenery I see around me.

My husband and I found our paradise in Punta Gorda Florida where the weather always keeps us guessing.

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  • Shirley Belk4 months ago

    Margaret, this was brilliant and so much fun!!!

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