You may have forgotten to mark the date on your calendar, but this Saturday is International Tongue Twister Day, and the Logic Puzzle Museum in Burlington, Wis., is preparing for its ninth annual contest, to be held Nov. 14.
You can check out last year’s heated competition with this video from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
If you’re not quite ready for such a public display of wordplay proficiency (try saying that fast five times), I’ve got the perfect practice exercise for you: Danny Kaye’s 1951 hit “Tongue Twisters.”
You can listen to it here …
… and then check out the lyrics here to try your skills.
Or below, check out Kaye’s most famous tongue-twisting movie scene, “The Pellet With the Poison,” from the 1955 film “The Court Jester.”
Once you master the word challenges, you can try adding some choreography, though it would be hard to match the Gene Kelly-Donald O’Connor tongue-twister tribute (that’s not easy to say, either) from the 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The big time: political bloopers
Then it’s on to the big time: politics and unintentional tongue twisters and embarrassing moments, particularly those special slips of the tongue known as spoonerisms.
Two of the most famous tongue-tied examples have direct Minnesota ties, including a recent one by oft-quoted 6th District Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Without a doubt, the honor of the most famous flub goes to Harry Von Zell, who, as a young radio announcer, referred to Herbert Hoover as “Hoobert Heever” at the end of a long public tribute he was reading at a 1931 event honoring the president. The Snopes.com website separates the truth from the often-embellished legend.
The Minnesota connections
Another president, Jimmy Carter, found himself in an uncomfortable spotlight at one of the key moments of his political career: his speech accepting re-nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City.
Early in his speech, President Carter managed a major slip of the tongue while paying tribute to some of the party’s charismatic leaders. When he got to Minnesota legend Hubert Humphrey, a carried-away Carter praised Hubert … Horatio … Hornblower — before quickly correcting himself. The infamous moment is on display here at about the 3:10 mark.
And then to wrap up, we go to the most recent high-profile Minnesota political spoonerism, courtesy of Michele Bachmann. In April 27 comments on the floor of the U.S. House, she turned the Smoot-Hawley Act into “Hoot-Smalley” and then mixed up which president she was blaming for the tariff legislation. You can see the clip below.
For the record, critics — led by the likes of MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann — were not kind.