Purposely to Please the Palates of Pretty Prattling Playfellows

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


While the word ‘alliteration’ may first bring to mind lost medieval forms, alliteration is very much present (along with other sound patterning and alternation) in a popular contemporary genre: tongue-twisters. The tongue-twister tests the speaker’s (be they a child, an actor or a partygoer) verbal skill in the correct alternation and repetition of confusable sound groups. This chapter discusses the history of the genre and presents comments on the form from some of its contemporary practitioners.

Many of the best-known tongue-twisters in current oral circulation were popularised by Victorian guides for diction and pronunciation (Peter Piper himself, for example), and to this day the tongue-twister continues to be advocated in language learning and elocution training. They have also proved irresistible for their potential for drawing speakers into inappropriate vulgarity. Drawing upon recent fieldwork, the meeting points of these two trends in performance and theatrical occupational customs are considered. For performers, the tongue-twister offers an irresistible opportunity to demonstrate performance skill whilst at the same time providing a tool to train those very skills.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlliteration in Culture
EditorsJonathan Roper
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2011


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