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Theophilus Thistle Tongue Twister

Do your articulators need a workout?

Are you fresh out of ideas for vocal warmups?

Check out this cool tongue twister that was brought to my attention called “Theophilus Thistle” in today’s VOX Daily.

In The Thick of Thistles

Yesterday my dad was visiting and happened to do a lot of work in our backyard uprooting thistles that were steeped in the lawn and vegetable garden. As you may know, thistles are terrible weeds that smart tender footsies when stepped upon and the elimination of these prickly pests gave way for celebration via a Facebook update posted to my profile last night.

After a few requests rolled in for my dad to come weed other peoples’ gardens, another comment arrived from Tim Lundeen (pictured at left) noting that the update reminded him of Theophilus Thistle, a gentleman I was hitherto unaware of.

Following a quick Google search for the name Theophilus Thistle, I was met by a challenging tongue twister with several variations about a thistle sifter called Theophilus Thistle.

Theophilus Thistle

Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter,
In sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles,
Thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.
If Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter,
Can thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb,
See thou, in sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles,
Thrust not three thousand thistles through the thick of thy thumb.
A more compact version reads:
Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter,
Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles.
If Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter,
Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles,
Where is the sieve of un-sifted thistles
Theophilus Thistle, the Thistle Sifter, sifted?

Do You Have Any Tongue Twisters To Share?

Be sure to comment and include your favorite tongue twisters!

Best wishes,

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  • Avatar for Joe J Thomas
    Joe J Thomas
    July 15, 2011, 9:22 am

    Here’s one I use:
    If you stick a stock of liquor in your locker
    It is quick to stick a lock upon your stock
    Or some joker who is quicker’s
    Going to trick you of your liquor
    If you fail to lock your liquor with a lock
    … and another (from a Tom Lehrer song “Clementine”):
    That I missed her depressed her young sister named Esther
    This mister to pester she tried
    Now a pestering sister’s a festering blister
    You’re best to resister say I
    The mister resisted, the sister persisted
    I kissed her – all loyalty slipped
    When she said I could have her
    Her sister’s cadaver
    Must surely had turned in its crypt

  • Avatar for Leslie Diamond
    Leslie Diamond
    July 20, 2011, 10:21 am

    Good morning, Stephanie!
    I love tongue twisters! One of my favorite collections is in a book entitled “You Said A Mouthful” Tongue Twisters to Tangle, Titillate, Test and Tease by Roger Karshner. Theophilus Thistle is included in all its varieties. My agent Toni Silveri recommends this book for warming up the articulators before a session. Amazon’s got it – enjoy!

  • Avatar for Peter in Memphis USA
    Peter in Memphis USA
    July 21, 2011, 5:33 pm

    My 2 favourite ones…
    Are you copper-bottoming ’em, my man?
    No, I’m aluminuming ’em, ma’am…”
    “The sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick..”

  • Avatar for Chris Murphy
    Chris Murphy
    July 21, 2011, 7:13 pm

    Sadly most of the copy I read already written as a tongue twister.

  • Avatar for David from Great Barrington, Ma.
    David from Great Barrington, Ma.
    July 21, 2011, 9:32 pm

    All the way through childhood, friends would always try to catch me with a trippy twister to tongue tangle and truly trouble my talent for tongue twisters…. well for some reason, I never found one that I couldn’t say countless times and very fast…. UNTIL THIS ONE!!!
    It got thrown at me a few years back and stopped me dead in my tracks!
    “The Sixth Sick Sheik’s
    Sixth Sheep’s Sick”
    That’s all… I can make it once and I’m twisted.
    But even if you never get it, you’ve still gotten a great sibilance workout.

  • Avatar for Trisha Browne
    Trisha Browne
    July 22, 2011, 3:36 am

    How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood
    as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck
    if a woodchuck could chuck wood
    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
    Missus M, Missus I, Missus S S I, Missus S S I, Missus P P I

  • Avatar for Cate
    July 22, 2011, 7:42 am

    I sometimes think the old ones are the best – my grandfather’s was “The Leith Police Dismissith us” – apparently used in conjunction with white-line walking!

  • Avatar for Will
    July 22, 2011, 11:05 am

    I’m a fox in socks man myself
    Luke Luck likes lakes, Luke’s duck likes lakes,
    Luke luck licks lakes, Luke’s duck licks lakes.
    Luke Luck licks lakes that duck likes,
    Luke’s duck licks lakes that Luke Luck likes…

  • Avatar for Randy Johnson
    Randy Johnson
    July 22, 2011, 12:14 pm

    This was a real-life tongue twister that gave me a bit of difficulty, one Christmas Eve, when I was trying to get home to my family.
    I had a stack of 20 carts already (yes, this was a few years ago), was tired and cranky, when I ran into a commercial for a Farm Implement company. They were selling “rotary windrow rakes.” 36 takes later (and a few broken carts, from throwing them against a wall), I finally had the spots (there were two sixties) recorded and ready for air.
    There were also, “Flavo-Rich Fruit Pops in all your favorite fruit flavors.” WHEW!

  • Avatar for Tula Cavill
    Tula Cavill
    July 23, 2011, 2:23 pm

    Hi Stephanie,
    Loving the tongue twisters! However, I prefer mine to be short, sharp and sweet…try this and say it numerous times in quick succession
    “Unique New York” How many times can you manage to say it without stumbling?

  • Avatar for kc
    July 27, 2011, 5:07 pm

    My dad’s favorite was “toy boat toy boat toy boat…” I like “I slit a sheet, a sheet I slit, upon the slitted sheet I sit.” 🙂

  • Avatar for Jim Edgar
    Jim Edgar
    July 27, 2011, 5:27 pm

    She stood in the window of Burgesses’ Fish Store shop
    Inexplicably mimicking him and welcoming him in.
    I’m not the pretty banjo player, I’m the pretty banjo player’s mate
    I’m only playing the pretty banjo player’s banjo,
    because the pretty banjo player’s running pretty late.

  • Avatar for Nic Natarella
    Nic Natarella
    July 27, 2011, 7:58 pm

    Hi Stephanie:
    I have four words for you:
    “Red leather, yellow leather.”
    I’ve been working on that one for 25 years and still can’t say it out loud!

  • Avatar for Terri
    July 28, 2011, 9:11 am

    This thread is so much fun!! Love reading “Fox in Socks”
    OK, how many times can you say “social security” without fumbling over your words?
    Good luck!!

  • Avatar for Bill Kronick
    Bill Kronick
    July 29, 2011, 10:38 am

    I slit the sheet
    The sheet I slit
    and on the Slitted Sheet I sit.

  • Avatar for Greta Mellerso
    Greta Mellerso
    July 29, 2011, 10:39 am

    swiss wrist watch, swiss wrist watch

  • Avatar for Chris Hiler
    Chris Hiler
    July 29, 2011, 10:39 am

    tleilaxan axlotl tanks tumble towards terra

  • Avatar for Cheryl Bennett
    Cheryl Bennett
    July 29, 2011, 10:40 am

    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper. If Peter Piper picked at peck of pickled peppers, how may pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

  • Avatar for Bill Hollis
    Bill Hollis
    July 29, 2011, 10:41 am

    I used to use Theophilus in HS Drama class! Awesome!

  • Avatar for Cheryl Bennett
    Cheryl Bennett
    July 29, 2011, 10:57 am

    Sally sold seashells by the see shore.

  • Avatar for Kareema Griest
    Kareema Griest
    July 29, 2011, 10:58 am

    I always have trouble w/this one: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck is a woodchuck could chuck wood?” (try saying it really fast!!!)

  • Avatar for Michael Wilson
    Michael Wilson
    July 29, 2011, 11:00 am

    Grandma mouchy makes munchy meat most monday mornings.

  • Avatar for R B Butcher Ruben
    R B Butcher Ruben
    July 29, 2011, 11:01 am

    Professor Peter P. Perkins’ patented pale pink & purty purple pills for the pale, peeked, palid & puny people! Thanks KBF, & Doctor I. Will Skinem’s Mother Murphy’s Magic Mixture Medicine Show!

  • Avatar for Melissa Redmond
    Melissa Redmond
    July 29, 2011, 11:02 am

    She stood on the balcony inexplicably mimicking him hiccuping while amicably welcoming him in.

  • Avatar for Sean Sullivan ‎
    Sean Sullivan ‎
    July 29, 2011, 11:14 am

    (This one may have made the Guinness Book)…….
    “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.”
    (This is a repeat fast and giggle one)………
    One smart fellow; he felt smart.

  • Avatar for Camilla Joyce ‎
    Camilla Joyce ‎
    July 29, 2011, 11:15 am

    I’d like a Proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot

  • Avatar for Kareema Griest
    Kareema Griest
    July 29, 2011, 11:16 am

    ‎”red rubber baby buggy bumpes”……”aluminum, linoeum…” (repeat this quickly & see how well you do…hehehe)

  • Avatar for Vince Smith
    Vince Smith
    August 10, 2011, 3:48 pm

    If you enjoy creative tongue twisting, check out the animated series “Pinky & The Brain”

  • Avatar for Ed Clancy
    Ed Clancy
    August 15, 2011, 5:16 pm

    I have been doing Theophilius Thifter in public for decades. Most people have not heard it before. Also..I have fun with One Hen Two Ducks. Not a tongue twister, but hard to memorize.

  • Avatar for Bob M
    Bob M
    November 1, 2019, 12:50 am

    70 years ago I thought I heard one phrase as “Ten thousand thistles through the thistle thrasher,” but it’s been awhile.

    Of course the terse verse: Red leather, yellow leather.

  • Avatar for Andrew McCrow
    Andrew McCrow
    September 1, 2021, 8:52 pm

    Articulitory agility, is a desirable ability, manipulating the tongue, the palate and the lips.

  • Avatar for Mamapajama
    January 20, 2022, 2:02 am

    Sifters, don’t forget the ending:

    “Success to successful thistle sifters!”