»  A Chinese tongue-twister


Mr Shi Eats Lions

A Chinese tongue-twister

(Author anonymous)

•  Notes

Thinking that this sort of thing is much better when read by a native speaker, I asked Mrs Derbyshire to do it. She: "No. It's silly." I couldn't persuade her, so the recording is my own best effort.


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•  Text of the poem



嗜獅  誓食十獅。
十時  適十獅適市。
是時  適施氏適市。
氏視是十獅  恃矢勢
氏拾是十獅屍  適石室。
石室濕  氏使侍拭石室。
石室拭  氏始試食是十獅屍。
食時  始識是十獅屍

My translation:

    Mr Shi Eats Lions

In a stone den was a poet named Shi
Who loved to eat lions, and had resolved to eat ten.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At exactly ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that moment, Shi had just arrived at the market too.
Seeing those lions, he shot them with his arrows,
Causing those ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp, so he had his servant clean it.
The stone den now clean, he tried to eat those ten lion corpses.
When he ate, he realized those ten lion corpses
Were in fact ten stone lions.
Try to make sense of this.

Transliteration into pinyin:

Shí shì shīshì Shī Shì
Shì shī    shì shí shí shī
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī
Shí shí    shì shí shī shì shì
Shì shí    shì Shī Shì shì shì
Shì shì shì shí shī    shì shǐ shì
Shǐ shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī    shì shí shì.
Shí shì shī    shì shǐ shì shì shí shì.
Shí shì shì    shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī shī.
Shí shí    shǐ shí shì shí shī shī
Shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.