Just about every child learns the classic tongue twisters about Peter and that seashell-selling girl. You know the ones. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?” “She sells seashells by the seashore.” But now, it’s time to introduce you to Simon Short from “The Saga of Shrewd Simon Short” — the world’s longest tongue twister containing 466 tongue-tripping words. Certainly, it’s length makes it one of the most difficult tongue twisters of all time. See if you can read it all the way through without tripping up your tongue:
Shrewd Simon Short sewed shoes. Seventeen summers, speeding storms, spreading sunshine successively, saw Simon’s small, shabby shop, still standing staunch, saw Simon’s selfsame squeaking sign still swinging silently specifying: Simon Short, Smithfield’s sole surviving shoemaker. Shoes sewed soled super finely.
Simon’s spry, sedulous spouse, Sally Short, sewed shirts, stitched sheets, stuffed sofas. Simon’s six stout sons — Seth, Samuel, Stephen, Saul, Silas, Shadrach – sold sundries. Sober Seth sold sugar, spices; simple Sam sold saddles, stirrups, screws; sagacious Stephen sold silks, satins, shawls; sceptical Saul sold silver salvers; selfish Shadrach sold salves, shoestrings, stops, saws, skates; slack Silas sold Sally Short’s stuffed sofas.
Some seven summers since, Simon’s second son Samuel saw Sophia Sophronia Spriggs somewhere. Sweet, smart, sensible Sophia Sophronia Spriggs. Sam soon showed strong symptoms. Sam seldom stayed storing, selling saddles. Sam sighed sorrowfully, sought Sophia Sophronia’s society, sang several serenades slyly. Simon stormed, scolded severely, said Sam seemed so silly singing such shameful, senseless songs. ‘Strange Sam should slight such splendid sales! Strutting spendthrift! Shattered-brained simpleton.’
‘Softly, softly, sire,’ said Sally. ‘Sam’s smitten; Sam’s spied some sweetheart.’
‘Sentimental schoolboy!’ snarled Simon. ‘Smitten! Stop such stuff.’ Simon sent Sally’s snuffbox spinning, seized Sally’s scissors, smashed Sally’s spectacles, scattering several spools. ‘Sneaking scoundrel! Sam’s shocking silliness shall surcease!’ Scowling, Simon stopped speaking, started swiftly shopward.
Sally sighed sadly. Summoning Sam, she spoke sweet sympathy. ‘Sam,’ said she, ‘Sire seems singularly snappy; so, solicit, sue, secure Sophronia speedily, Sam.’
‘So soon? So soon?’ said Sam, standing stock-still.
‘So soon, surely,’ said Sally, smiling, ‘specially since Sire shows such spirits.’
So Sam, somewhat scared, sauntered slowly. Shaking stupendously, Sam soliloquised: ‘Sophia Sophronia Spriggs, Spriggs — Short — Sophia Sophronia Short-Samuel Short’s spouse — sounds splendid! Suppose she should say — she shan’t — she shan’t!’
Soon Sam spied Sophia starching shirts, singing softly. Seeing Sam she stopped starching, saluting Sam smilingly. Sam stammered shockingly. ‘Spl-spl-splendid summer season, Sophia.’
‘Selling saddles still, Sam?’
‘Sar-sar-tin,’ said Sam, starting suddenly. ‘Season’s somewhat sudoriflc,’ said Sam, steadily, staunching streaming sweat, shaking sensibly.
‘Sartin,’ said Sophia, smiling significantly. ‘Sip some sweet sherbet, Sam.’ (Silence: sixty seconds.) ‘Sire shot sixty sheldrakes, Saturday,’ said Sophia.
‘Sixty? Sho t!’ said Sam. (Silence: seventy-seven seconds.)
‘See sister Susan’s sunflowers,’ said Sophia, socially, silencing such stiff silence.
Sophia’s sprightly sauciness stimulated Sam strangely; so Sam suddenly spoke sentimentally: ‘Sophia, Susan’s sunflowers seem saying Samuel Short, Sophia Sophronia Spriggs stroll serenely, seek some sequestered spot, some sylvan shade. Sparkling springs shall sing soul stirring strains; sweet songsters shall silence secret sighings; super-angelic sylphs shall —’
Sophia snickered; so Sam stopped. ‘Sophia,’ said Sam, solemnly. ‘Sam,’ said Sophia.
‘Sophia, stop smiling; Sam Short’s sincere. Sam’s seeking some sweet spouse, Sophia.’
Sophia stood silent.
‘Speak, Sophia, speak; such suspense speculates sorrow.’ ‘Seek, sire, Sam, seek sire.’
So Sam sought sire Spriggs. Sire Spriggs said, ‘Sartin.’
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For further reading: The Joy of Lex by Gyles Brandreth
The Mother Tongue – English And How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson