Can you say this tongue twister 10x fast?

betty-230x300Betty Botter bought some butter,
“But,” she said, “This butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter,
It will make my batter bitter!”
So she bought some better butter,
Put it in her bitter batter,
Made her bitter batter better.

I learned this one from my mother when I was young, and I always thought it was an easy one to roll off the tongue. I also thought it was cute and logical.

I always enjoyed tongue twisters growing up, and even got to perform one (Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers) when I was on Sesame Street as a kid. Yes that was a moment of fame and glory!

Stopping to Think

I never really delved into the meaning of a given tongue twister. But on my recent trip to visit family in Austin, the Betty Botter rhyme came into my wandering mind after some talk with my mom about bats and batters—and I realized there’s a gaping logical hole in the poem. Here’s the question: How did the batter get bitter if Betty Botter never put the bitter butter in her batter in the first place?

I went straight to my mom with my question. Surely, I thought, I must be remembering the words wrong! There must be a line I was missing! But mom confirmed that I remembered the words just as she had passed them down to me—and she admitted that she, too, had missed the gap in logic in the verse.

Next stop Google. Perhaps mom had learned an incomplete version of the poem? Here’s what I found on Wikipedia as the full text:

Betty Botter bought some butter;
“But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will but make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So ’twas better Betty Botter
Bought a bit o’ better butter.

While this version is longer and a bit of a better tongue twister, it by no means solved the problem that Betty never put that bitter butter in her batter! And while I did find one version that had a line, “The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter / And made her batter bitter,” this version was clunky and contrived.


We Are Gullible

How many things like this are there in our lives? How easy is it for someone, or for the media, to trick us with a clever gimmick into accepting something as reasonable or logical that simply makes no sense?

I’m reminded of the well-known joke that goes something like this:

What’s the opposite of least? Most.
What do you call a person who throws a party? The host.
What’s another word for seashore? Coast.
What’s another word for brag? Boast.
What do you call a dead person who comes back to life? A ghost.
What do you put in a toaster? Toast.

Oops. You don’t put toast in a toaster. The correct answer is “bread.” Or maybe “a bagel.”

Back to Google. I put “what do you put in a toaster joke” into my search bar and was gifted with multiple lists of jokes that made me feel like an idiot when I read them. I was hoping for some brain science around these types of jokes, but came up empty except for one suggestion that brain training can be accomplished without the help of

Read, Think… and Listen Carefully

Mostly I am reminded by all these examples to pay attention. To listen carefully and closely, and as much as possible, not to accept things at face value. This is easier said than done, and I know I will miss important subtleties and inconsistencies more often than I would like to predict.

And in the meantime, I will leave you with this:

A plane crashes fatally on the border of the United States and Canada. Where do they bury the survivors?

Answer: First of all, it sounds like there were no survivors. But even if there were, you do not bury survivors. They are alive.


  1. This is how I was taught the Betty Botter rhyme:
    Betty Botter bought some butter
    But she said “this butter’s bitter”
    “If I put it in my batter-
    It will make my batter bitter!”
    So she bought some better butter,
    And she put it in her batter,
    And her batter was not bitter.
    So ‘‘twas better Betty Botter
    Bought a bit of better butter.

    It rolls easily off the tongue, and it clearly states she never ruined any batter! This is my favorite tongue twister. It impresses everyone to whom I recite it:)

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