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November 8 is International Tongue Twister Day

Today is International Tongue Twister Day. Celebrate with these doozies chosen for their fun and difficulty. Will they leave you speechless? Read aloud and repeat, if you dare.

international tongue twister day twisted tongueIn 2013, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) tripped up volunteers with the following word combination they declared the most difficult tongue twister in the English language.

Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.

It was judged to be even harder to say than a longstanding favorite introduced in 1990 by American expert (and MIT graduate) William Poundstone:

The seething sea ceaseth and thus the seething sea sufficeth us.

The Guinness Book of World Records, meanwhile, gave the following sentence its highest marks:

The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick.

What are the elements of a tongue twister? Our brains can handle words that sound identical, like “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” It’s the same story with words that sound very different from each other, such as “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

At a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Francisco, CA, the MIT team presented its finding that different types of tongue twisters have different effects on our brains, lips, tongues, and throats as we produce mistakes in our speech.

Our brains get drawn up short when we attempt to jump between two nearly identical sounds, confusing one sound with the other. “She sells seashells on the seashore” twists the tongue because the sss and shh sounds are similar but not exactly the same. Speech errors also occur when we try to quickly repeat certain words or phrases. For instance,  “toy boat” several times in a row turns into “toy boyt,” while “top cop” becomes “cop cop.”

Insight into such slip-ups may help researchers understand how humans process and plan speech. As we speak, we must coordinate movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, and larynx. Our brains may sort sounds by which muscles need to move to produce them, such as front-of-the-tongue sounds (sss), back-of-the-tongue sounds (ga), and lip sounds (ma).

“This implies that tongue twisters are hard because the representations in the brain greatly overlap,” Edward Chang, a neuroscientist at the University of California, told Nature.

Invite some people over for an International Tongue Twister Day party and have fun trying to say some of these whoppers.

Rubber baby buggy bumpers
I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen.
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.

Here’s a little tongue twister trivia to amaze your friends.

We all know this Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

But did you know that it was inspired by the life of one-armed Frenchman Pierre Poivre? An 18th-century horticulturist and pirate, Poivre raided spice stores and smuggled the seeds back to France. Poivre often stole nutmeg seeds, which were nicknamed “peppers.”

Another famous tongue twister was taken from a song written in 1908.

She sells seashells by the seashore;
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
So if she sells seashells by the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Terry Sullivan’s ditty paid tribute to Mary Anning, whose father taught her to find and dig fossils from the cliffs of Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. As an adult, she famously unearthed a previously unknown type of dinosaur, later named Plesiosaurus.

Which do you like? Which one is the hardest to say? Should a nonsense phrase like “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” be considered a tongue twister, or is it cheating? What do you think?

Copyright notice Worldwide Weird Holidays 2021

February 29 is International Underlings Day

international underlings dayFeeling a little bored by Leap Day? Fear not: there is another. International Underlings Day was created in 1984 by Peter D. Morris to recognize those not honored by National Boss Day, Administrative Professional Day, Programmers’ Day, Professional Speakers Day, International Working Women’s Day—the list goes on. And on. And on.

Here’s a pop quiz to see if International Underlings Day is tailor-made for you:

Do you sometimes feel like work is a cosmic joke, that the ladder of success has a few broken rungs?

Do you know how everyone else likes their coffee, lunch, and dry cleaning?

Have you ever delivered bagels to a roomful of executives going through trust exercises?

Have you ever felt paralyzed by fear as you watched a coworker get fired for making a paperclip chain? Did you then feel:

a) relief that it wasn’t you
b) shame for feeling relieved
c) resentment that you’re still stuck in your crappy job
d) envy when you imagine that person walking around outside, free

     Have you ever quit a job, confident you would never work in such an insane asylum again, only to end up in progressively more horrifying       workplaces?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, you might be an underling. Congratulations: you have a day. Unfortunately, but perhaps fittingly, that day falls on February 29th, which occurs once every four years. That makes 2020 only the tenth celebration of this holiday.

Have a happy International Underlings Day. You deserve it. Just don’t expect cake.

Copyright 2020 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

International Sweater Vestival

Today is the International Sweater Vestival, also known as Sweater Vestival or the Festival of Sweater Vests. Always occurring on the first Friday of December—identified by some as the second Friday after Thanksgiving—it celebrates the sartorial splendor inherent in the collective donning of sweater vests.

The first known mention of “Sweater Vestival” occurred in 2008 when Carolyn Johnson interviewed the holiday’s creator for the Boston Globe. Who is this mysterious genius? Is it Johnson herself? Perhaps fearing scandal, Johnson isn’t telling; one might say she’s playing her cards close to the vest. Here is an excerpt from the article.

Q: Why should I wear a vest? Isn’t this a made-up holiday?

A: It certainly is made-up, and that is exactly why you should take part. All holidays are made-up – a collective recognition of some person or historic event or cause. These can range from the sincere to the ironic to the nonsensical. In apparent seriousness, for example, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm established Narcolepsy Awareness Day on March 9. A more arch holiday is 11/11, set aside for the Corduroy Appreciation Club to “hail the wale.” Name your cause and there’s a day: International Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept. 19), World Wide Knit in Public Day (the second Saturday in June), or National Boss Day (Oct. 16).

The purity of a holiday’s origins tends to get buried in the commercial detritus that blossoms in the middle aisle of local drugstores. So understand that the Sweater Vestival is a nascent holiday – a rare opportunity to get in on the ground level of a holiday, before manufacturers are churning out tiny, edible, foil-wrapped vests.

[Editor’s note: seen on store shelves since 2015]

Sweater Vestival Day

tiny, edible foil-wrapped vests

 

More importantly, it is not a holiday about historical figures or causes or ideals: It is about all the other people who wear the vest.

Q: Can you tell me more about the holiday’s origins?

A: The second Friday after Thanksgiving is a lull in a jam-packed holiday season and a perfect day for people to continue the holiday cheer with something subtle yet uplifting. Unlike other faux holidays – such as Festivus, which first appeared on the sitcom “Seinfeld” as a protest against holiday-season commercialism – Vestival is not a joke at all. It also happens to be funny.

Q: Why is Vestival important?

A: On a superficial level, Sweater Vestival isn’t about something “deep.” In contrast, on a superficial level most other holidays are: Veterans Day is about the serious topic of honoring soldiers who have fought in wars to protect this country. President’s Day salutes our forefathers. Valentine’s Day is about love. But if you look beneath the surface, Valentine’s Day is more about candy and overpriced bouquets. Presidents’ Day has become synonymous with sales at car dealerships, and many people see Veterans Day as just another day off, not an opportunity to consider wars and the weight of history.

Despite its seemingly shallow artifice, though, Vestival carries unusual depth. People wearing vests smile at each other in recognition, discuss the origins of their vests, or give each other compliments. At a time when people can feel more alone than ever, wearing a sweater vest is a reason to connect.

What are you waiting for? Grab those thrift store finds; gifts from Christmas past languishing in the back of your closet; or any sweater you have the urge to liberate of its sleeves. (Common sense advice: obtain permission before wielding the scissors if the aforementioned sweater belongs to someone else.)

Embrace the cold shoulder(s) and have a happy International Sweater Vestival!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the U.N. Foundation in partnership with 92Y, and is always observed on the first Tuesday of December. Following on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, symbols of excessive retail spending, Giving Tuesday encourages us to show generosity to those in need.

giving tuesday

The campaign’s creators hoped that 50 nonprofit organizations would respond by using the hashtag #GivingTuesday in their online appeals. According to Asha Curran, director of the 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact and a founding member of #GivingTuesday, “We were asking a question: Is there an appetite for something like #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, but about giving?”

The answer was a resounding yes. Over 2,500 nonprofits took part that first year. By 2014, the number of participants had expanded to include nearly 35,000 charities, civic groups, celebrities, and for-profit companies in 68 countries. In 2016, more than 6,700 nonprofit organizations participated in Giving Tuesday. The average online donation was $128, totaling $47.7 million, according to the Blackbaud Institute’s annual Charitable Giving Report.

Curran describes the event as a movement which includes many actions beyond donating money. In Watertown, NY, for example, residents have been encouraged to donate hours to help neighbors without vehicles get to medical appointments, grocery stores and other critical locations.

Kathy Calvin, CEO of the U.N. Foundation and #GivingTuesday co-founder, attributes the event’s success to its function as a collaboration between nonprofit organizations. “It’s controlled by nobody, owned by everybody,” she says. “We’re working together to raise awareness. This includes logos, sample press releases, social media toolkits. Anything we could think of.”

Critics say the day encourages charities to send emails with the sole purpose of making a cash grab in December when 30 percent of all charitable giving would occur anyway due to the holiday season and end-of-year tax incentives, according to Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index.

Proponents point out that people who donate their time, services or money today are likely to remain involved throughout the year. Everyone is encouraged to give to groups that have impacted their lives and to share their experiences and inspirations at #MyGivingStory.

During the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to forget the value of how we spend our time, money and effort. Giving Tuesday reminds us that we can choose to spend today giving back or paying forward while saving others (and ourselves) in the process.  That’s a bargain too good to pass up.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays