Sometimes Sunshine

Sometimes Sunshine

As a child one of the fun things about language were the word games one learnt soon enough to enjoy. None better perhaps than tongue twisters that always translated into nonsense that always succeeded in bringing humour across the generations. From ‘Around the rugged rock, the ragged rascal ran’ to ‘red leather, yellow leather’ one aspect of mastering a language is being able to master its tongue twisters. They are always decidedly odd sentences such as the following. The translations are included to betray their lack of logic!

combien de sous sont ces saucissons-ci? Ces saucissons-ci sont six sous (French) “How much are these sausages here?  These sausages here are six cents.”) 

zwei schwartze schleimige Schlangen sitzen zwischen zwei spitzigen Steinen und zischen  (German) (“Two black slimy snakes sit between two pointed stones and hiss”) 

Other favourites in the European arena include:

Měla babka v kapse brabce, brabec babce v kapse píp. Zmáčkla babka brabce v kapse, brabec babce v kapse chcíp (Czech) Grandma had a sparrow in her pocket and the sparrow made a sound. Grandma pressed the sparrow and it died

Als vliegen achter vliegen vliegen, vliegen vliegen vliegensvlug (Dutch) If flies fly behind flies, flies will fly like lightning 

Król Karol kupił Królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego (Polish) King Karl bought Queen Caroline coral-colored bead

Far, Får får får? Nej, inte får får får, får får lamm (Swedish) Father, do sheep have sheep? No, sheep don’t have sheep, sheep have lambs?

As for the English language, we are provided with the following that also are best interpreted with a healthy stretch of imagination: 

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck 
if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood that he could 
if a woodchuck could chuck wood

Sister Sue sells sea shells.
 She sells sea shells on shore.
 The shells she sells are sea shells she sees.
 Sure she sees shells she sells

You’ve known me to light a night light
on a light night like tonight. There’s no need to light a night light
on a light night like tonight,
for a night light’s a slight light
on tonight’s light night

Some short words or phrases can be interpreted as tongue-twisters when repeated a number of times fast. You have to say them aloud (try it!): 

Thin Thing

French Friend

Red Leather, Yellow Leather

Unique New York

Sometimes Sunshine

Irish Wristwatch

Big Whip

Whatever their length, words have provided excellent material for games from the earliest times. Another of the more pleasing arrangements is the palindrome, which is a word that is spelt the same backwards as forwards. The Germans have even come up with a palindromic word Eibohphobie that translates as a fear of palindromes. All in all, they can create some bizarre meanings:   

neulo taas niin saat oluen (Finnish) knit again, so that you will get a beer

Nie fragt sie: ist gefegt? Sie ist gar fein (German) she never asks: has the sweeping been done? She is very refined

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (Latin) we enter the circle after dark and are consumed by fire

nipson anomemata me monan opsin (Ancient Greek) wash off my sins, not only my face (written on the edge of a well or a font in Constantinople, where ps is y)

The Finns have the three longest palindromic words:

saippuakivikauppias a soapstone seller

saippuakuppinippukauppias a soap cup trader 

solutomaattimittaamotulos the result from a measurement laboratory for tomatoes

while here are some of the better and longer European palindromic phrases that aren’t too non-sensical:

a dyma’r addewid diweddar am y da (Welsh) and here is the recent promise about the livestock

Socorram-me, subi no onibus em Marrocos (Portuguese) help me I took a bus in Morocco 

selmas lakserøde garagedøre skal samles (Danish) Selma’s salmon red garage doors must be assembled

Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor (Latin) in Rome love will come to you suddenly

As for the English language, we are provided with the following:

never odd or even 

was it a cat I saw?

do geese see God?

a man, a plan, a canal, Panama

go hang a salami, I’m a lasagne hog

murder for a jar of red rum

rats live on no evil star

rise to vote, sir

Emma Tidey
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