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/ Botter
- /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 a bit of butter;
“But,” she said, “this butter's bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will 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.
Bronte Alberts' Version
Betty Botter bought a bit of butter
But the bit of butter Betty Botter bought was bitter
So Betty Botter bought a better bit of butter
A longer version
Betty Botter bought some butter, but, she said, The butter's bitter; If I put it in my batter, It will make my batter bitter. But, a bit of better butter will make my batter better. So, she bought a bit of butter better than her bitter butter, and she put it in her batter and the batter was not bitter. So, 'twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.
Betty Botter bought some butter.
But Betty Botter found her butter bitter. So Betty Botter bought some better butter. A little bit of bitter butter didn't bother Betty.
But her better butter better not be bitter!
There was an animated version featured on PBS Kids Television Channel, animated by Lynn Tomlinson. In this variation the rhyme is as follows
Betty Botter bought some butter,
but she said her butters bitter.
So if she put it in her batter, it would make her batter bitter,
but a bit of better butter, that would make her batter better.
So, she bought a bit of butter, better than her bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter, and her batter was not bitter.
So, T'was better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.
- "The Jingle Book by Carolyn Wells" – via www.gutenberg.org.
- "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
- Smolkin, Laura. "Betty Botter" (PDF). virginia.edu.
- YouTube video"Betty Botter".