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Tongue Twisters (Trava-línguas)

A small, sometimes rhyming text, which is difficult to pronounce.
 

Tongue Twisters (Trava-línguas)

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Last update: 19/03/2020

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

A small, sometimes rhyming text, which is difficult to pronounce.

O rato roeu a roupa do rei de Roma. (The rat tore the King of Rome’s clothes.)

A aranha arranha a jarra, a jarra arranha a aranha; nem a aranha arranha a jarra nem a jarra arranha a aranha. (The spider scratches the jar, the jar scratches the spider; neither the spider scratches the jar nor the jar scratches the spider.)

Se a liga me ligasse, eu ligava a liga, mas como a liga não me liga, eu não ligo a liga. (If the league called me, I would call the league, but because the league doesn’t call me, I won’t call the league.)

O doce perguntou ao doce qual o doce mais doce e o doce respondeu ao doce que o doce mais doce é o doce de batata-doce. (The sweet asked the sweetness which sweet is the sweetest and the sweetness replied to the sweet that the sweetest sweet is sweet-potato sweet.)

Quatro pratos de trigo, para quatro tigres tristes. (Four plates of flour, for four sad tigers)

Um ninho de mafagafos cheio de mafagafinhos. (A nest of grues full of little grues)

Se o Papa papasse papa / Se o Papa papasse pão / O Papa tudo papava / Seria o Papa papão. (If the Pope ‘ate’ porridge / If the Pope ‘ate bread / The

Pope who ‘eats’ everything / Would be the bogeyman Pope.)

Farofa feita com muita farinha fofa faz uma fofoca feia. (Breadcrumbs made with too much fluffy flour makes ugly gossip.)

Quero que você me diga, / Sete vezes encarrilhado / Sem errar, sem tomar fôlego: - Vaca preta, boi pintado. (I want you to say to me, / Seven times in a
row / No mistakes, without taking a breath: - Black cow, coloured bull).

All sources indicate that Amadeu Amaral and Alcides Bezerra were the authors of the term trava-língua (tongue-twisters). They are also known as parlenda com obstáculo (rhyming with obstacles) or problema para desenferrujar a lingual (problems to de-rust the tongue), because when spoken quickly they freeze the tongues of the people trying to pronounce the words.

Many tongue-twisters when spoken quickly result in cacophony (unpleasant sounds or obscene words, resulting from the union of the final syllables of one word with the beginning of the next).

They are often used by Cordel singers to defeat their opponent in “battles”.

They can also appear in the form of a quatrain:

Um sapo dentro do saco (A frog inside the sack)
O saco com o sapo dentro  (The sack with a frog inside)
O sapo batendo o papo (The frog is croaking)
E o papo cheio de vento (And its belly full of wind)

Num ninho de mafagafos (In a nest of grues)
Seis mafagafinhos há; (Six grues there are;)
Quem os desmafagafizar, (Whoever will ‘de-grue’ them,)
Bom desmafagafizador será. (A great ‘de-gruer’ they will be.)

Lá vem o velho Félix (Here comes old Felix)
Com um fole velho nas costas (With old bellows on his back)
Tanto fede o velho Félix (Stinks so bad old Felix)
Como o fole do velho Félix fede (As much as  old Felix’s bellows stink)

Pinga a pipa (Drop the kite)
Pia o pinto (Cheeps  the chick)
O pinto pia (The chick cheeps)
A pipa pinga (The kite drops)

Recife, 4 July 2003.
(Updated on 8 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

sources consulted

CAVALCANTI, Zaida. Travalínguas. Recife: FJN, Inpso., 1983. ( Folclore, n.130).
 
MELO, Veríssimo de. Cantador de viola. Recife: Concórdia, 1961. p.49-52.
 
ROSSATO, José Carlos. Nosso folclore. São Paulo: Soma, 1987. p. 15-16.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Tongue Twisters (Trava-língua).  Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/en/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.