Posts

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

November 20 is National Absurdity Day

national absurdity day National Absurdity Day: is there any occasion that cries out more loudly to be taken seriously while simultaneously laughing at anyone who does? Of course not, silly. Holidays can’t talk.

Grab a copy of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus or just about anything by Samuel Beckett. Add Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to your Netflix queue. Join the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Meanwhile feast on this gem, courtesy of Anti-Joke:

A man walks into a bar and pauses: at the other end of the bar, there’s this guy with a big orange head. Just sitting there, looking into his drink. So the man asks the bartender, “Say, what’s up with the guy with the big orange head?” And the bartender says, “It’s an interesting story. Buy him a drink and maybe he’ll tell it to you.”

So the man walks over and introduces himself and offers to buy a round. The guy with the big orange head says, “Yeah, I’ll bet you want to know the story, huh?” To which the man replies, “Sure, if you don’t mind.”

The man with the big orange head sighs and says, “You know, I’ve gone over it in my mind a million times. Basically, it went like this: I was walking along the beach one day when I stubbed my toe on something. I looked down, and there was an antique brass lamp. I picked it up and dusted it off a little — when all of a sudden this enormous genie pops out!

“The genie thundered, ‘You have released me from my ten-thousand-year imprisonment, and I am in your debt. I will grant you three wishes as a token of my gratitude.'”

The man at the bar is agape. The guy with the big orange head continues: “So I said, ‘Wow, okay. Well, my first wish is to be fantastically wealthy.’

“The genie says, ‘Your wish is granted.’ And all of a sudden I have rings on my fingers and a crown on my head, and my wallet is full of money and a dozen ATM cards and the deed to a mansion in the hills — I mean, I was loaded!

“So I said, ‘Amazing! Okay, for my next wish, I want to be married to the most beautiful woman in the world.’

“The genie says, ‘Your wish is granted.’ And the ocean parts, and out walks this gorgeous woman in this beautiful dress. She takes my hand, and we fall in love and the genie marries us right there. It was incredible.

“The genie booms, ‘You have one wish remaining.'”

The man with the big orange head pauses and sips his beer. He says, “Now, you know, this may be where I went wrong. I wished for a big orange head.”

Happy National Absurdity Day!

Copyright 2020 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 23 is TARDIS Day

On November 23, 1963, the BBC aired the first episode of its new science fiction series about a mysterious man and his time machine. (Why did it look like a British police box? Because its chameleon circuit jammed after it landed in 1960s England, of course.)

TARDIS DayNo one could have predicted that Doctor Who would go on to be the longest-running science fiction television show in history. The original pilot was deemed unwatchable, scrapped and reshot, delaying the premiere by a week.

By the time the retooled episode, An Unearthly Child, made it to air on November 23, 1963, it was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy, which had occurred the day before.

But Doctor Who eventually found an audience, especially after the introduction of the Daleks. More than half a century later, it is still popular with millions of loyal viewers. William Hartnell was the First Doctor to hop aboard the TARDIS, which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

From the start, it was established that a Gallifreyan Time Lord can only regenerate twelve times. That would have made Peter Capaldi the last. Some fans insist the rule was nullified during Matt Smith’s tenure. Others maintain that John Hurt’s character was the forgotten regeneration between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston, which meant Capaldi was the Thirteenth Doctor.

The debate was settled by Chris Chibnall, the show’s new head writer, who announced, “After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

“I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice.” The canon-busting series 11 began on October 7, 2018, and, while a few continued to cavil about the heresy of a female Doctor, fans voted with their eyeballs.

According to the UK Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), which includes online viewership, 10.9 million people watched the premiere, the highest number for a season opener since the show’s return in 2005. BARB also reported that more girls than boys under 16 watched the debut: 378,000 vs 339,000. Last season’s first episode drew 143,000 girls and 339,000 boys. Brilliant.

We celebrate TARDIS Day because Doctor Who continues to entertain us with its steadily expanding universe, at once strange and strangely familiar. It’s also created a legion of Whovians, fans who seek each other out, bond over their love of the show and debate about who is the best Doctor, the worst villain, or even how many Doctors Who there have been.

Find some great ways to celebrate TARDIS Day here. Find the Doctor Who episode that fell on (or closest to) your birthday on Tardisday.com. Catch up on recent (2005-present) seasons on Amazon Prime. Watch the classics (1963-1989) when you sign up for BritBox. Fair warning: Even without the 97 lost episodes discarded by the BBC in the 1970s, there are more than 700 episodes, making it impossible to watch them all during a seven-day free trial period. Unless you’ve figured out that whole wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey situation, in which case, enjoy!

Happy TARDIS Day!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 13 is Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins DayToday is Sadie Hawkins Day, an American rite-of-passage for generations of teenagers. Misogynistic, antiquated and awkward for all involved, the Sadie Hawkins Dance supposedly empowers girls to switch gender roles and ask out the boys. Did we mention it’s misogynistic and antiquated? The true origin is much, much worse.

Sadie Hawkins was a character created in 1937 by Al Capp in a cartoon called Li’l Abner, set in the fictional hillbilly town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Sadie was the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” She waited in vain for a suitor to show up at her door, but not a single prospective husband came a-courting. After fifteen years, Sadie was in full panic mode and her father didn’t want to support a spinster daughter for the rest of her life.

After fifteen long years, Sadie’s dad decided to get creative. He called all the unmarried men of Dogpatch together and declared it Sadie Hawkins Day. The town’s bachelors would run for their lives with Sadie in hot pursuit. The “lucky” man she caught would have to marry her. As her Pappy explained, “Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

Sadie_Hawkins_Day origin lil abner comic strip

The rest of the spinsters in Dogpatch (how many were there?) thought the race was an excellent idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of the bachelors in town, who had no say in the matter.

The Sadie Hawkins Dance appeared in the strip sometime later, taking place the night before the race. The spinsters wore hobnail boots to stomp on the feet of the single men, potentially making them easier to catch in the next day’s race.

The Li’l Abner comic strip debuted in 1934. From the start, it was bawdy and filled with sexual innuendo, not to mention scantily-clad, pneumatically-chested women. But it was apparently considered wholesome family fare. In 1939, Life magazine ran a story stating that 201 colleges were celebrating Sadie Hawkins Day.  By 1952, it was reportedly celebrated at over 40,000 different locations. Capp wrote of the phenomenon:

It’s become my responsibility (to include Sadie Hawkins Day every year in the strip). It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens. I get tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities, and church groups, starting around July, asking me what day, so they can make plans.

Eventually, it evolved into an all-day event that occurs during the second week of November.

sadie hawkins day life magazine

Li’l Abner was an enormous success for its creator, who grew rich from merchandising and movie deals, product tie-ins and a short-lived TV puppet show. In the 1960s, he underwent an ideological transformation from New Deal Democrat to hippie-hater and close friend of Richard Nixon. He became a highly paid speaker on the college campus lecture circuit. His routine was to insult and provoke his audience into a shouting match.

sadie hawkins day al cappCapp attempted to use his fame to “seduce” young women. The biography Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary characterized him as something of a failed serial rapist since the few women who reported him to the authorities always got away. (Capp had lost one of his legs as a boy and routinely removed his prosthetic leg along with his pants.) One would-be victim described tipping him over like a floor lamp, as he crashed into the hotel furniture.

Of course, grotesque slapstick aside, there was nothing funny about his sexual assaults on young women. In 1971, Capp succeeded in physically forcing a 20-year-old Wisconsin college student to perform oral sex on him. To her credit, and against overwhelming pressure, the student pressed charges.

Capp was not charged with rape, but with three lesser counts: indecent exposure, sodomy and “attempted adultery.” He was only found guilty of the latter. Although his career and reputation never recovered, he continued to publish the Li’l Abner comic strip until 1977. He died two years later.

Sadie Hawkins Day is not what it seems. She wasn’t a real person. It has nothing to do with women’s emancipation. Who uses the word spinster? What do you think? Does it matter what its origin is if no one realizes it—or cares, for that matter? Should it continue to be celebrated or be retired?

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays