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MIT research creates most difficult English tongue twister

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MIT researchers have created what they tout as the most difficult English tongue twister. The sentence is "pad kid poured curd pulled cod", which means very little but has brought speakers to a complete halt. On Dec. 5, the BBC covered this unique creation and quotes the lead researcher, Dr Shattuck-Hufnagel, as pointing out how it helps explore the "long chain of events between having an idea and actually moving your mouth to create the sound."

The Encyclopædia Britannica defines a tongue twister as:

a word or group of words made difficult to articulate by a close sequence of similar consonantal sounds.

Dr. Shattuck-Hufnagel and her colleagues looked at a variety of English tongue twisters, and found two general categories related to word list tongue twisters such as "top cop" and sentence tongue twisters such as "the top cop saw a cop top." They are looking at speech errors as a way of understanding how the brain operates. In an American Institute of Physics press release, she states "When things go wrong, that can tell you something about how the typical, error-free operation should go."

Researchers devised the sentence "pad kid poured curd pulled cod" and discovered that attempting to repeat it ten times often rendered subjects unable to speak. The meaningless group of words, with its similar sounds, appears to confuse the brain. The BBC quotes Shattuck-Hufnagel offering the phrase "leap note nap lute" as another very difficult tongue twister.

International Tongue Twister Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in November. It recognizes that every language has phrases that baffle the tongue. Even speakers of American Sign Language are not immune, as they suffer from "finger fumblers" according to OMG Facts. The Linguistic Society of America states that there are over 6,900 languages and that suggests there are a lot of tongue twisters.



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