Make a fool of yourself

Today you’re going to make a fool of yourself. This will happen whether you want to or not, so you’re better off embracing the idea and going with it. If you’re a normal human being, you make a fool of yourself every day anyway. That’s the very definition of “normality.” Right now you’re going to do it for a specific purpose.

Meet Peggy Babcock. She’s not old enough to stop caring about how old she is, so she’s probably 57 or 60. But that's immaterial. I just need you to say her name out loud:

“Peggy Babcock.”

Now say it three times in a row, at a pretty fast clip.

“Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock.”

Congratulations. You’ve just made a fool of yourself. You’ve become a babbling, incapacitated baby sheep. It happens to everyone. Your lips, tongue, and jaw couldn’t face the challenge of saying sweet ol’ Peggy’s name three times in a row. You tensed your neck and shoulders. You tried to use every last body part to compensate for the failure of speech—head, hands, feet, pelvis, everything. And you became frustrated and annoyed.

First and foremost, you’ve demonstrated that the physical and the emotional are so connected as to be inseparable. A tiny physical challenge gave rise to strong emotions. The relationship between the physical and the emotional may not be always so intense or unbalanced, but there always is some relationship.

Second, you’ve demonstrated that trying too hard to accomplish anything is kinda not very smart, if you know what I mean. You fell apart trying hard and still didn’t accomplish the task. Well, quit it. From now on, don’t try so hard.

Third, you’ve demonstrated that speaking clearly is a function of the whole person—not voice alone, not mouth alone, but the whole body plus the words plus the emotions.

Stop thinking about Madame Babcock for a moment. Calm down. Center yourself. Take those famous deep breaths you see in the movies. Now say “Bab.” It’s easy, right? You can do it without killing yourself, right? Now say, “BAB-Cock,” the Bab louder than the Cock. Lengthen the “a” of Bab: “BAAAB-Cock.”

Now say “Peggy.” You don’t need to stiffen your neck or go berserk. Say it slowly, repeat it a few times. Now say, “Peeeeggy… BAAAB-Cock,” lengthening the “eh” of Peggy, waiting between Peggy and Bab, and making BAB the strongest of all four syllables.

Now say it all a few times in a row, and then start speeding it up gradually, making the vowels not so long, making the separation between syllables not so big, making Bab not so loud.

Congratulations again. You’ve learned how to use inflection, timing, rhythm, organization, and a little self-awareness in order to speak beautifully. I propose you always talk that way.

Here are some more Tongue Twisters. They really ought to be called Person Twisters. Enjoy them.

  • Seventy-seven benevolent elephants.
  • Sheena leads, Sheila needs.
  • Extinct insects' instincts.
  • All rural girls will wear jewelry.
  • Black background, brown background.
  • Double bubble gum, bubbles double.
  • Elmer Arnold.