Recitation of Betty Botter tongue-twister
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Betty Botter is a tongue-twister written by Carolyn Wells. It was originally titled "The Butter Betty Bought." By the middle of the 20th century, it had become part of the Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes.
The construction is based on alliteration, using the repeated two-syllable pattern /'b__tə 'b__tə 'b__tə/ with a range of vowels in the first, stressed syllable. The difficulty is in clearly and consistently differentiating all the vowels from each other.
- They are almost all short vowels:
- /æ/ batter
- /e/ better - Betty
- /ɪ/ bitter - bit o'
- /ɒ/ Botta
- /ʌ/ butter
- with one long vowel /ɔ:/ 'Bought a'
When it was first published in "The Jingle Book" in 1899 it read:
- Betty Botta 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 Botta
- Bought a bit o’ better butter.
Alternate versions may add extra words to clarify the meaning, such as "I would like to make some ... tasted her butter and said... and threw away her ..." in this Caribbean version, which focuses on the story content instead of the tongue-twister content:
- Betty Botter had a bit of butter and said,
- "I would like to make some batter."
- Betty Botter tasted her butter and said,
- "If I put this in my batter it would make my batter bitter."
- Betty Botter bought some fresher butter and threw away her bitter butter
- Betty put her butter in her batter and it made her batter better.
Other versions emphasize the tongue-twister content by minimizing extraneous words:
- Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.
- The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
- And made her batter bitter.
- But a bit of better butter
- Makes better batter.
- So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter,
- Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better.
Some versions are shortened:
- Betty bought some butter but the butter she bought was bitter,
- So she bought some better butter to make the bitter batter better
- 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...Betty Botter bought a
- Bit of better butter and made
- Her batter bunch better.
- The Jingle Book, Carolyn Wells (Macmillan, New York), 1899, page 86
- "A Book of American Humorous Verse" edited by James Whitcomb Riley, Duffield & Company, New York, 1917, page 169, in which Ms. Wells' authorship and Macmillan's original copyright is acknowledged.
- The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1951; page 84-85