Well, according to Richard Thomas, a New York fish and wildlife technician, the answer is about 700 pounds (320kg). How he got there is not too important, the focus here is on the phrase itself.
Introducing the ‘Tongue Twister’. To be honest though, it doesn’t really need an introduction and English is not the only language to blame for having these nasty literary works of genius. I have heard many versions in other languages and each time someone tells me their native version they almost always come with some level of nostalgic value.
As far back as I can remember, I can recall hearing the tongue twister which is the title of this post; How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
I remember trying to master it and then once I had it down I set out trying to figure out what exactly it meant. Due to the fact that Google wasn’t around and information was not nearly as accessible as it is today, I came to the conclusion that it was not important how much wood could possibly be chucked by something I only found out much later was actually a small ferret-looking animal.
When looking at the sentence and especially when listening to it being said rapidly, it is hard to think that it is actually created with some level of thought. It may look like the ramblings of a crazy person but in fact the ‘Tongue Twister’ is a finely crafted sequence of words.
“How much wood…” is created by using Alliteration*, which is what makes it so difficult to say. There are five ‘w’ sounds in the sentence as well as five ‘ch’ sounds. Put these all together in a manner that repeats them all with little other sounds in between and there you have one ever-memorable tongue twister, that in this case actually makes sense and has an answer.
*Alliteration: “The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.”