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She Sells Seashells: The Fascinating Origin of This Favourite Tongue Twister

She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

This gorgeous tongue twister has amused us for years.  It’s lots of fun to say but also quite difficult.

And if you’re like most people, you’ve been twisting your tongue over that one for years but, did you know its history dates back a long way.

The vaudeville entertainer Wilkie Bard popularised this rhyme in a show called “Dick Whittington and His Cat” which he performed in London in 1908. Soon the rhyme became popular and since then it’s been a great tongue twister for articulation practice.

But this fun little rhyme goes back further than 1908.  Almost a century before in fact.

The seashell-selling woman on the shore was actually a real person whose work helped scientists to understand our planet’s very history.

Yes, the jingle is based on the true story of Mary Anning (1977-1847) who was born in Dorset, England. She was born into a poor family and had limited education, although she did manage to learn to read and write. Mary had an interest in science and combed the coastline in search of seashells and fossils which she sold to tourists.  She also had a love for things scientific and sold many of the fossils she collected around the sealine to local geologists.  These were invaluable in helping the scientists of the day to understand our geological history.

So, in her small way, Mary contributed important information to help the scientific community understand about pre-historic life on earth.

Now over to you

“She sells seashells” is a fun way to work on your articulation skills.

Try saying this tongue twister five times.  Not too fast mind you.

The idea is to speak clearly without stumbling or mispronouncing.

Good luck!