I have heard that the origins of the “woodchuck chuck” tongue twister are unknown. Is this completely true? My research indicates that its been around since about the early 1900s. Can anyone shed any light on its true origins?
I can’t, but here’s another one I heard recently:
“I am a mother pheasant plucker, I pluck mother pheasants. I am the best mother pheasant plucker that ever plucked a mother pheasant.”
(5 times fast)
You got it wrong -
I’m not the pleasant pheasant plucker,
I’m the pleasant pheasant plucker’s son
So I sitting her plucking pleasant pheasants,
till the pleasant pheasant plucker comes.
Delete “pleasant” throughout, and that’s more or less the way I learned it, with a simple little tune to go with it, and a second verse. Thus:
I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s son,
And I’m only plucking pheasants 'til the pheasant plucker comes.
I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate,
And I’m only plucking pheasants 'cos the pheasant plucker’s late.
In answer to the OP (which is over a year old) the tongue twister came from* Fay Templeton’s Woodchuck Song*, by Theodore F. Morse and Robert H. Davis, Copyright 1903. It was a blackface/Vaudeville-style song (i.e. racist and corny) performed in a Broadway production called The Runaways. It was later recorded by Ragtime Bob Roberts in 1904.
The original lyrics:
There am heaps of knowledge in old Yale college, and in Harvard University. But I ain’t yet found, no where around, not even down in Tuskegee, a full fledged college graduate what could right off-hand elucidate, or any where’s near stipulate to me: [chorus]
I’se a strong suspicion, a supposition, that some white man surely ought to know. Fo’ when I shout, der ain’t no doubt I’m heard clean out to Chicago. Where dose professors speculate, and figure and anticipate, and git right down and calculate to show: [chorus]
I’se an intimation dat education am something everyone don’t sell. But I’m de moke what tried to soak dis woodchuck joke on old Cornell. Dem students couldn’t regulate, on dis hear problem complicate, you ought to seen dem hesitate to tell: [chorus]
Chorus: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood? And how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck only could? If a woodchuck could make good and would, but there ain’t no reason why he should, but how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?
You sure that’s the origin, and not just a coopting of the tongue twister? I know of a more recent song that also have those lyrics, and I know they came from the tongue twister.
yeah - I actually learnt it without the pleasant - but the addition makes it that much harder…
Makes an awesome drinking game (everytime you get it wrong, must drink)
then of course you also have Mrs. Fuddy Duddy and her flat cut punt.
Sure as online searching can be, unless anyone can help find an earlier cite. It might have been inspired by something similar already in popular use at the time but if so there isn’t any easily found record of it. At the least this is the earliest copyrighted work with that chorus.
I first heard it as:
“I ain’t a fig plucker, I’m a fig plucker’s son…”
While Miss Tempelton did perform this in late 1903, it appeared in early 1902 in a few newspaper articles. I can supply about five upon request. Two of those articles suggested it was a long-ago remembered nursery song/rhyme. Whether that is true, I can’t say. But it hit the newspapers at least a year before it became a Broadway song.
“I ain’t the sheet slitter, I’m the sheet slitter’s son…”
Thank you samclem. If anyone could dig up an earlier cite I thought it would probably be you. While searching a little more after posting, I came across thisat a website that specializes in this kind of thing and had addressed the topic 4 years ago. :smack:
Regarding the OP, I don’t know her name but it was written by some lady, who I think lived near the ocean. She had a small business selling something. I forget what.
I learned a parody of this tongue twister a number of years ago. It went something like:
“How much whey would a Zimbabwe if a zimbab [whatever that is…] could weigh whey?”
Also a very long story about Peter the little pit viper who kept telling his mummy he wanted to hiss and being told “Don’t hiss in the pit; if you want to hiss, go over to Mrs Potts’s pit and hiss”… and eventually being sent home by a cross Mrs Potts, on which mummy sniffs that she remembers when Mrs Potts didn’t have a pit to hiss in.
or: “I slit a sheet. A sheet I slit. Upon a slitted sheet I sit.”
Hi Mrs Potts! I’ve come to vipe your vindows!