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It’s “pad kid poured curd pulled cold.”
Can you say that? How fast? How fast can you say it 10 times? That was the test developed by psychologists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to lead researcher Dr. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, it was this phrase that tripped up test subjects more often than any other.
Tongue twisters are not straightforward. There’s a reason why they confuse the mouth:
At least some of the time, tongue twister mix-ups were not one sound or another, but appeared to be something in between.
In the 'top cop' example, sometimes the 't' and 'c' seemed to arrive at almost the same time ('t'kop') and sometimes there was a delay between the two sounds with space for a vowel ('tah-kop').
The scientists studied two categories of tongue twister, simple lists of paired words, such as 'top cop' and whole sentences.
They found that in the word list tongue twisters there was a preponderance of 't'kop' type errors. In contrast, sentences produced more 'tah-kop' mistakes that included a short vowel after the initial consonant.
Test yourself. How fast can you say "pad kid poured curd pulled cold"?