The Woodchuck Question

We’re all familiar with the old saw “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?” My background in physics suggest the obvious answer: One woodchuck chuck-unit; however, I am curious as to where this question came from. Early 20th century assonant/rhyming nonsense? Slang? Or early linguistic/speech therapy work?

He would chuck his alloted sixteen tons. But he would still be another day older and deeper in debt like the rest of us. Just let the woodchuck be content not to chuck and quit trying to make him slave for the man.

Well bless my soul!

The question is defined pretty poorly - there are no time bounds and there might be a problem with different kinds or sizes of wood.

Also, the woodchuck may take a while to attain maximum rate of chucking and will probably tire later - making the graph of the amount of wood chucked vs time resemble something like a Logistic S-curve. The answer to the question “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?” is better answered in terms of the gradient of that curve over a specific region.

I haven’t a clue where the phrase originates though, sorry.

No, no, Si Amigo. Our friend **BrainFireBob ** said “would” not “should”. Keep your shirt on.

Does he get paid for piece work, or on a hourly scale, and if he enjoys doing it, do we call it work at all?

The category of this type of verse is tongue twister.

I have no idea where it came from, but always heard that a woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood. And that was harder to type correctly than it is to say!

The question is moot anyway, as people who need wood chucked will invariably equip themselves with one of the many powered wood chuckers on the market.
The electric models are always popular, but there are also gasoline and diesel-powered versions for use in more remote locations, as well as larger-scale industrial wood chucking plant incorporating their own drive systems and often luxury features such as air-conditioned driver cabins.

One could always check the Master: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

It’d be really great if Cecil could address the Origin question in the OP. Maybe I’ll go and submit it as Google has turned up nothing I can see.

Until someone better comes along (Samclem, you out there?) I’ll offer my WAG that it’s a children’s rhyme from a time before Nintendo.

A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

To the OP, I’m sure it’s just a tongue twister with no meaning at all.

Right around 1902 or so, it started appearing in newspapers across the country.

As others have said, just another example of a tongue-twisting rhyme, which quite possibly was/could have been used as a way of teaching people how to speak.

I must zot, but I can’t figure out who!

You have no staff, and you must ZOT?

The question has way to many assumptions build into it. For example, a question similar in many ways might be: "If Shagnasty can do .75 loads of laundry an hour, how long will it take him to do 5 loads?

None. That is why I have a wife. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you will. Maybe the woodchuck has a wife as well.

Chucking wood is his job. But when he retires, he’s planning on selling seashells by the seashore.

The thought of this being rendered by immigrants in various European accents is giving me giggle fits. “Der voodchuck, yah, he chuck so much vood . . .”