Peter Picked a Pile of Pickled Pumpkins Pertly!

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 12th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

Those little ditties, we sometimes call tongue-twisters, that perhaps you remember as amusing you when you were younger, but they are an interesting tool used to provide curiosity, rhyme and intrigue when used in speech or writing, this linguistic tool has been widely used In poetry, literature, and theatre.

She sells sea Shell on the Sea Shore

It is possible to thank Mary Anning for "She sells sea Shell on the Sea Shore" which we may know as a tongue-twister, but most tongue-twisters are based on a combination of alliteration and rhyme in order to make their point. We can also thank James Thomson for a popular example "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers" is an example of alliteration, which is defined as the repetition of the same (or similar) sounds at the beginning of words and these syllables are stressed to emphasise a phrase.

There is good reason why we call them tongue twisters and this is because they have at least two sequences of sounds that require repositioning of our tongue between syllables in order to pronounce them and most frequently our tongue fails us, especially in a challenge to say the words fast.

Most alliterations as based on word pairs or phrases, such as:

  • My mother munched many mangoes
  • Busy Bee
  • Eric’s eagle eats eggs
  • He hopped happily
  • Big Ben
  • Baby boomers
  • Rabbits & rats rehearsing their rap
  • readers and writers

You will notice that use of an alliteration is about sound rather that matching in respect of spelling and often the words used are commonly linked.


According to Wikipedia "alliteration" comes from the Latin word “Latira”, meaning “letters of the alphabet”. Alliteration is defined as a stylistic literary device, identified by the repeated sound of the first consonant in a series of words and has been known to be used as long ago as the 1600s with Shakespeare's influence, but may also date back earlier than 1400 under the influence of Chaucer. Alliteration normally involves repetition of sounds based on the consonants, but on rare occasions it can also be used with vowel sounds. Shakespeare brought us "when I do count the clock that tells the time" (in Sonnet Xii) which brings two alliterations based on the "c" and "t" to emphasise his point.

Chaucer's poems were designed to be read out loud, and this is certainly the way he wrote them, their range, from high romance to bawdy comedy, is well calculated to hold the listeners spellbound and use alliterations that were relevant to his time and he was known for gently satirising many vivid details within his poems and stories.

An adaptable linguistic device that has found its way into magazine and newspaper article titles, advertisements, business names, comic strips, cartoon characters, and common expressions, furthermore people often use them without either thinking about them or knowing what they are.

Alliteration developed largely through the development of poetic verse or to provide rhythmic effect within a narration or speech, where the repetition of a consonant in any syllables provide words for the reader to really chew upon - with the alliteration it is important not to speed read but to play with the words involved for best effect.

The device of alliteration is commonly used in many languages, especially for poetry, alliterative verse, it is even noted as a very important ingredient of the poetry used in ancient Sanskrit shlokas, so we can see this linguistic tool to be very ancient indeed.

A Sense of Sound

Alliteration is clearly related to the sense of sounds where the whole or parts of words are unconsciously emphasised (by the reader), its use can bring together opposites or the seemingly impossible, such as "the crumbly cookie", where repeated use of the "c" sound also arguably doubles as an onomatopoeia because that sound relates to the crunch that the cookie would make when eaten and is used precisely this way to paint the picture in the readers mind, their senses also need to tingle with the potential taste, so it is a very powerful tool indeed. In addition to an aural cue, alliteration can also be a visual enhancer on which a reader can focus on or be influenced by. The video at the end is one for the kids, but it acts as a great reinforcement.

Clearly the writer must put a lot of thought into creating the alliteration in order to carry the reader through their writing. in poetry, poets can call attention to certain words in a line of poetry by using alliteration, the intent to create a pleasant, rhythmic effect and like Shakespeare they may use two contrary sounds on two distinct lines in order to carry the reader through a cycle of sounds as the poem develops.

Image Credits

The images used in this article have been obtained from the following sources:

  • Star fish by Peter Giblett
  • Pickled Peppers by
  • Rhyagelle by


Alliteration, Chaucer, Cycle Of Sounds, Emphasise A Phrase, Pickled Peppers, Poetic Verse, Repetition, Rhyme, Rhythmic Effect, Same Sounds, Sea Shells, Sequences Of Sounds, Shakespeare, Stressed, Tongue-Twister, Unconsciously Emphasised

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
12th Nov 2014 (#)

Fascinating. We used to practice them as kids.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
12th Nov 2014 (#)

Aren't they just? They are a very useful linguistic tool.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
13th Nov 2014 (#)

When I was adopted at the age of six Peter , my speech was not to the liking of my new mother , who was a Primary School Headmistress. So I was given elocution lessons , and I recall I had to learn certain tongue twisters to improve my speech , one of which went as follows .
Betty Botter bought some butter , but she said ' This butter's bitter , if I put it in my batter , it will make my bitter , but a bit of better butter , better than this bitter butter , will but make my bitter, batter better. '
I never tried the recipe , but I believe it helped my diction .
I hope your eyes are improving
Bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
13th Nov 2014 (#)

My eyes are improving greatly, but I still have a way to go - thank you for your thoughts Stella. Loves the Betty Botter ditty.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
14th Nov 2014 (#)

Stella that was quite a mouthful for a little girl to say. I was born in the south and when my family moved north IWas 5 years old. My teachers were constantly saying I didn't say my words right. I learned a lot during those years. It was definitely a learning lesson.

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author avatar tafmona
13th Nov 2014 (#)

thanks a lot for taking your time to share this information

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
14th Nov 2014 (#)

Peter, I loved this article. I learned a few new things and it made me smile. Thanks

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
14th Nov 2014 (#)

Nancy, I believe that any of the articles that play on words do give us all a little smile.

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author avatar Bodylevive
17th Nov 2014 (#)

I recall those tongue twisters! They're quite fun to say, especially when saying them fast. Great article, thanks for sharing the fun.

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