Tongue Twisters: 'Woodchuck'

The riddle comes from a 1903 song, and it has a theoretical answer

Woodchuck eating weeds
 Getty Images/​Philippe Henry

Tongue twisters are fun word games used to challenge our pronunciation. The alliteration in their phrasing allows people to concentrate their practice on one sound to help with fluency. More than just silly kids' games, they're used by actors, singers, and public speakers to work on their enunciation and articulation, so they are understood in front of a crowd. As an English learner, you can use tongue twisters to help with pronunciation of certain sounds. In this woodchuck tongue twister, you can work on your "w"s. Round your lips and make a small gap between your teeth to make the "w" sound.


"How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would
if a woodchuck could chuck wood."

Improving Your Pronunciation

The "w" sound practiced in this tongue twister is voiced and sometimes confused with the "v" sound, which is also voiced. The difference between the two sounds is that the "w" uses rounded lips and "v" is the voiced version of the voiceless "f" sound. Practice the difference in these sounds with minimal pairs, or words that have only a difference between the "w" and "v" sound. 


"Woodchuck"'s Origin

The "Woodchuck" tongue twister is from the refrain of the "Woodchuck Song," by Robert Hobart Davis and Theodore F. Morse. The song debuted in an American summer hit comedy musical The Runaways, which had a run of 167 performances between May and October 1903 at New York City's Casino Theater. The song was sold to consumers as sheet music featuring actress/singer/comedian Fay Templeton and on Edison wax cylinders, which predated flat phonograph records, performed by Ragtime Bob Roberts.

An Answer to the Question?

Unanswered questions don't always sit right with people. In 1988, state wildlife conservation officer Richard Thomas of New York attempted to figure out just how much a wood a woodchuck could chuck, had one had the opportunity to do so. Woodchucks don't actually chuck (throw) wood, of course, but, being a burrowing rodent, they do know well how to toss around some dirt. So Thomas took to calculating a typical size of a woodchuck burrow, which consists of three rooms and a tunnel leading to it that is 6 inches wide and extends 25 to 30 feet. He determined that 35 square feet of soil needed to be excavated to create such a burrow. Knowing that a cubic foot of soil weighs 20 pounds, that would come out to be 700 pounds of dirt that a woodchuck can chuck, and leading, by extension, to an answer to what was then an 85-year-old question, that should a woodchuck be so inclined, he could chuck about that many pounds of wood as well.    

More Tongue Twisters

Other American English tongue twisters include Peter Piper, She Sells Seashells by the Seashore, Betty Botter, and A Flea and a Fly.