'The King's Tongue Twisters' – More Speech and Language in the New York Times with Carolyn Bowen Quoted
[Source: New York Times]
“My Fair Lady” had “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” “Singin’ in the Rain” had “Moses supposes his toeses are roses.” To cinema’s pantheon of tricky diction, we can now add, “I have a sieve full of sifted thistles and a sieve full of unsifted thistles, because I am a thistle sifter.” Audiences for “The King’s Speech” can hear Colin Firth as Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), practice this tongue twister as part of the speech therapy conducted by Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush.
Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” (and its predecessor, “Pygmalion”) trains the flower girl Eliza Doolittle to lose her Cockney diphthongs. Similarly, the voice coach in “Singin’ in the Rain” tries to steer the silent-film star Lina Lamont away from a grating New York accent inappropriate for the talkies. But “Bertie,” as Firth’s character is known to his family, has much graver concerns: he is crippled by a stammer that makes public speaking a devilish chore. Logue prescribes a regimen of vocal calisthenics, tongue twisters among them, to improve the mechanics of Bertie’s speech. After the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, in 1936 opens the throne to Bertie, the therapy has geopolitical consequences, permitting the new king to address the nation in live radio broadcasts on the brink of World War II.
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