Tag Archives: tongue twister

Dried Sausages


Original: Ces six saucissons-secs-ci sont si secs qu’on ne sait si s’en sont.

Translation: These six dried sausages are so dry that we don’t know if they are.

Background: K is a 22 year old from Fairfax County, Virginia. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California. K has spoken French for nine years. 

Context: This tongue-twister was told to me at a hangout among friends.

Analysis: I thought this tongue-twister was interesting because the informant, K, did not grow up around French speaking people. Instead, he began learning French in middle school, where his teacher taught them this tongue-twister. Despite learning the tongue-twister nearly a decade ago, it’s stuck with him.

Don Pepito


Original: Don Pepito el bandolero, se cayó dentro un sombrero, el sombrero era de paja, se cayó dentro una caja. La caja era de cartón, se cayó dentro un cajón. El cajón era de pino, se cayó dentro un pepino. El pepino maduró, Don Pepito se salvó.


Don Pepito the bandit, a hat fell onto him, the hat was made of straw, a box fell into it. The box was made of cardboard, it fell into a drawer. The drawer was made of pine, a cucumber fell into it. The cucumber ripened, Don Pepito was saved.

Background: The informant, S, was born in Colombia and raised in suburban North Carolina by Colombian parents.

Context: This tongue-twister was told to me at a hangout among friends.

Analysis: I was drawn to this example of folklore because I don’t remember the last time I heard a tongue-twister in English. S said that her father and uncles often make the recitation of the tongue-twister into a competition at family events. As a result, it becomes a part of a game.

B’s in My Bonnet Tongue Twister


My informant for this tongue twister is a friend’s grandfather. Since its conception, my informant has continued to tell and retell the mouthful of a twister to friends and family. This has led it to be changed and added to with each retelling, subsequently causing different listeners to learn different versions of it.


When he was a young child, my informant was walking around his backyard looking for his blue, toy boat to use in their pool. When he asked his sister where it was, she replied “what blue boat?” He then said “my bright blue boat.” “Your bright blue boogaloo boat?” “My bright blue beautiful boogaloo boat!” And so the tongue twister was born.

Main Piece:

“Bidding belligerently, Buffalo Bill bought Buster Burnett’s bright, blue, beautiful, boogaloo boat by Bobby Bridget’s black bungalow before bewildering Barbara Bennett’s big, buxom bunny by bouncing backwards blindfolded bearing Betsy Barnaby’s Big Boy Bonus Burger bedecked by Bart’s buttered barley buns.”


When my informant first told me of the tongue twister that he created, I wavered on whether or not it should be added to USC’s folklore library as it seemed to only apply to him. I thought this until he told me just how long he’s been working on developing the sentence, and how many people have ended up memorizing it. Additionally, my informant noted that a number of his friends and family have helped him add to the original tongue twister, each memorizing different versions and passing those to their own friends and family. While it can be very difficult to determine the source of any piece of folklore, “B’s in my Bonnet” is a clear and insightful demonstration of how a piece of knowledge or lore disseminates from one person to many, changing form over time and with each retelling.

Apelle figlio di Apollo

Main piece:

“Apelle figlio di Apollo fece una palla di pelle di pollo tutti i pesci vennero a galla per mangiare la palla di pelle di pollo fatta da Apelle figlio di Apollo”

Apelle son of Apollo made a ball of chicken’s skin. All the fishes came to the surface to eat the ball of chicken’s skin made by Apelle son of Apollo

[there is no real translation as also in Italian there isn’t a deeper sense expressed by the words, which have, as main purpose, the one of being musically rhythmic and twist your tongue]


L.L.: I remember when I was at school and there were literally contests between children [laughs]. Like during the break we would meet in the corridors and challenge each other on who was the best at performing tongue-twisters. And like, if you were faster or better at telling them, you would feel superior…you would feel super smart. Oh and, not to mention when you learnt a new one that your classmates didn’t know and so you got to teach them. That was a real satisfaction [laughs]


My informant performed this tongue-twister over a dinner, in which other friends were present, and, after the performance of the piece, we all started to practice other tongue-twister we learnt when younger


Tongue-twisters surely are a fundamental piece of folk-speech, which is performed by children as well as adults. Usually they are learnt in young years of age, when, as my informant explains, they represent a sort of ‘exposition of intelligence’. 

In the case of Apelle figlio di Apollo, in fact, Italian kids would battle each other on who was the best at telling it, and, consequently, he or she would gain a feeling of supremacy on the other peers. 

Tongue-twisters as well are, therefore, definable as one of the many forms of rite of passage children use both to approach adulthood and to gain some sort of power inside of their social group. 

Italian Tongue Twisters

Description of Informant

AG (18) is an Italian-American dual citizen and high school student from Berkeley, CA. At home, she speaks primarily Italian, and spends her summers in Italy.


Original Text (1): Sopra la panca la capra campa, sotto la panca la capra crepa.

Transliteration: On top of the bench, the sheep/goat is singing, under the bench, the sheep/goat is dying.

Original Text (2): Apelle, figlio di Apollo, fece una palla di pelle di pollo. Tutti i pesci vennero 

a galla, per vedere la palla di pelle di pollo fatta da Apelle figlio di Apollo.

Transliteration: Apelle, son of Apollo, makes/fetches a ball of chicken meat. All of the fish came to the surface to see the ball of chicken meat that Apelle, son of Apollo, made.

Original Text (3): Trentatré Trentini entrano a Trentino, tutti e trentatré trotterellando

Transliteration: Thirty-three people from Trento enter the region of Trentino, all thirty-three of them trotting.

Context of Use

Italian tongue twisters are used for sport/entertainment among peers, often during social gatherings. Peers challenge each other to see who can speak the phrases fastest, without mistakes.

Context of Interview

The informant, AG, sits in the kitchen with her father and the collector, BK, her step-brother. Text spoken in Italian is italicized, but not translated.


AG: *speaking quickly* Sopra la panca la capra campa, sotto la panca la capra crepa!

BK: *laughing* What on earth is that?

AG: *laughing* You know how here we have “how much wood could a woodstuff stuff”—  no wait, what is it— “how much… wood could a woodchuck chuck! If a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Or like “how much stuff could a stuffy stuff if a stuffy could stuff stuff,” right?

BK: Sure, “Sally sells seashells down by the seashore.”

AG: Yes, exactly! Uh, we have one of those in italian, and it’s… *enunciating* Sopra la— oh we have two! I’m think of two right now. Oh we have three! Trentatré… okay. Ok, so first one is *enunciating* Sopra la panca la capra campa,  which means on top of the bench, the sheep, or the goat, is singing. Sotto la panca la capra crepa, under the bench— it’s crepa the same word from the wolf [phrase] [See _________]— the goat is dying… or dies.

AG: And then we have, uhh, oh yeah! *AG claps and speaks to the rhythm* Apelle, figlio di Apollo, fece una palla di pelle di pollo. Tutti i pesci vennero a galla, per vedere la palla di pelle di pollo fatta da Apelle figlio di Apollo. *laughing* It’s Apelle, son of Apollo, fece, made or got, palla di pelle, a ball of… chicken meat? All the fish went to the surface to see this ball of chicken meat that Apelle, son of Apollo, made.

BK: So the tongue twisters, much like those in English, don’t make a lot of sense. When do you use these tongue twisters?

AG: I think just at parties to see who can do them fastest.

BK: So they become competitive?

AG: Sometimes, yeah. Especially the capra one because that’s really hard.

BK: How widely known are these tongue twisters?

AG: Everyone knows them. Even the trentatré… Trentini tutti trentatré trotterellando

*At this point, AG‘s father EG (52) interjects to correct her*

EG: Entrarono a Trentino

AG: What is it? I forget.

EG: Trentatré Trentini entrano a Trentino, tutti e trentatré trotterellando.

AG: Trentatré, so 33, Trentini… What is Trentini?

EG: People from Trento, where I used to live. Entrano

AG: Entrano… entrarono? Or is it entrano.

EG: I don’t know.

AG: Entrano Trentino… what’s Trentino?

EG: It’s the region that Trento’s in.

AG: Oh entro Trentino… OHH!! Tutti e trentatré trotterellando.

EG: All 33 trotting.

AG: So how do you say the full thing in English?

EG: 33 Trentini, like people from Trento, enter Trentino, which is the region around Trento, all 33 trotting.

BK: That’s almost a tongue twister in English! So when/where do you learn these?

AG: From cousins, peers, usually from cousins and among young people.

Collector’s Reflection

The culture of tongue twisters in Italian society is similar to that among Americans, particularly American school children. Nonsensical, yet difficult to articulate phrases are developed informally and shared orally by peers. These tongue twisters are used for entertainment in groups, where at least two participants will challenge each other to recite them as quickly as possible. More often than not, this will result in sputtering and laughter, as participants fail to cleanly recite the twisters. Rules or structured games associated with tongue twisters are uncommon (e.g. points system, prizes, etc.), though they may be implemented.

Another function of tongue twisters not mentioned by the informant is the improvement of pronunciation. Those learning a new language may be encouraged to practice tongue twisters to improve their command over said language’s phonetic composition, and overall fluency. Given the already quickly-spoken nature of the Italian language, tongue twisters may serve new language learners well.