People say that at the beginning of the 19th century, Tudor Vladimirescu’s soldiers would ask those suspected of being Turkish or Greek spies to pronounce the following Romanian paronomasia in order to expose them if they couldn’t speak Romanian properly: Ciritei de tei pe mirişte de tei or Retevei de tei pe mirişte de tei. Obviously, if they were not able to pronounce the tongue-twister correctly, they were spies.
Enunciation was highly valued even in those remote times, so it would not hurt for us to learn about some of such tongue twisters, especially when working with language as interpreters or translators. There are numerous useful examples we could use: Un vultur stă pe pisc c-un pix în plisc; Stanca stă-n castan ca Stan; Șase saşi în şase saci; O babă bălană mănâncă o banană babană; O barză brează face zarvă pe-o varză; Știu că ştii că ştiuca-i peşte, dar mai ştiu că ştiuca-i ştiucă.
Such language twisters pose difficulties to any native Romanian speaker and evidently all the more so to foreigners who are studying Romanian. However, through purposeful repetition and increased attention to the sound of the words, such tongue-twisters can be mastered.
Such paronomasia also exist in English which is quite rich in puns and tongue-twisters that can easily become enunciation or pronouncement exercises for those who study English or translate from it: Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?; Seth at Sainbury’s sells thick socks; Roberta ran rings around the Roman ruins; Clean clams crammed in clean cans; Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks; Stupid superstition; Picky people pick Peter Pan Peanut-Butter, ‘tis the peanut-butter picky people pick.
The French language also has such enunciation exercises that become useful when studying the language or improving interpreters’ performance. Some may pose difficulties, but most of them are funny: Santé n’est pas sans t, mais maladie est sans t; Mon père est maire, mon frère est masseur; Ces cerises sont si sȗres qu’on ne sait pas si c’en sont; Un dragon gradé dégrade un gradé dragon; Tes laitues naissent-elles, Estelle? Si tes laitues naissent, mes laitues naîtront.
Another language rich in tongue twisters is the German language. Here are some twisters that may pose you pronunciation problems when you come across them: Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische; Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze; Nickende Nichten und wippende Fichten; Wo bist, Bovist?
In one of his works (Ars Poetica), Tudor Arghezi said about words and their magic power: “…my lifelong ideal has been to make a toy factory and, having lacked the equipment, I have played with what has been cheaper and free, with the wondering material of given words”.