Skills: Elocution

I’m taking a Rhetoric class to improve my public speaking skills, despite – or more because of – the fact that I really do not like public speaking. Call it exposure therapy: the more speeches I make, in front of a group where I’m not afraid to fail, whose judgment I trust, the easier it will get and the better I will do. After my first speech I started crying, and now I don’t even get adrenalized! This is progress.

One of the first activities we worked on in the class was elocution. These are exercises to stretch and work out the muscles in your tongue and face by saying difficult phrases repeatedly and very accurately. No pronouncing “milk” like “melk”, or saying “runnin'”! The issue is that when you are just starting the exercises, it’s very hard to hear the mistakes you’re making. It helps to have someone else around to point out all the errors (and yes, there will be a lot of them…).

Here is a list of the exercises I’ve used. Several people have noticed a difference in the way I speak since starting this practice, so it clearly has an effect. Plus, many of them are just fun to say!

A – Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.

B – Big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled black blood.

C – Can I cook a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot?

D – Don’t doubt the doorbell, but differ with the doorknob.

E – Eight gray geese in a green field grazing.

F – Fine white vinegar with veal.

The free thugs set three thugs free.

G – Grab the groundhog from the glazed grass.

Grey geese in a green field grazing.

H – High roller, low roller, lower roller.

How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?

I – Inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping.

I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch

J – Jingle jungle jangle joker.

K – Knit kilts for nasty cold nights.

L – Little lucky luke likes lakes, lucky little luke likes licking lakes

M – Monkeys make monopoly monotonous.

N – The Next nest will not necessarily be next to nothing.

O – Octopi occupy a porcupine’s mind.

Only royal oily royal oil boils

P – Peter Prangle, the prickly pear picker, picked three perfectly prickly pears.

A proper copper coffee pot.

Q – Queen Catherine wakes the cat, and the cat quietly cries.

R – Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers!

Roberta ran rings around the Roman ruins.

S – Some shun sunshine. Do you shun sunshine?

Six stick shifts stuck shut.

T – Three thick thistle sticks.

The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.

U – Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York.

V – Venti, Grande, Tall – Very Grand Words for Large, Medium, Small.

W – Will’s wetsuit is round and wet and rough and wide and ready to go on a watery ride.

Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.

X – Xylophones exist or so existentialists insist.

Y – Yoda met a Yeti on the Plains of Serengeti.

Z – Zoologists illogically love to read astrology.


– H


3 thoughts on “Skills: Elocution

  1. Good practice phrases….but what is it that you don’t feel comfortable with? To me public speaking is really about telling someone something. If you have nothing to say then sit down. If you have something to say then say it, and mean it. If you don’t mean it, then sit down. I do get very bored with people who have to give a speech and have nothing to say…..I ask why?


    • I don’t feel comfortable with the format of public speaking. I do great in interviews, informal speaking events, etc, but having to stand in front of people and give prepared remarks, with very little feedback to bounce off of, makes me very nervous. It’s purely a lack of practice, and through this class I’ve already improved a lot. I have plenty I want to say, but if I can’t say it calmly, no one will want to listen!
      – H


      • I think you have a point about not having any thing to bounce off…that is scary, but I think there are techniques to finding those moments to connect, some people use humour, some people use powerful comments to stir people up,others simply smile and find someone in the audience who smiles back, but in the end you have to find those moments early on in the speech to hear that the audience is listening, if you don’t you may as well be speaking to yourself…


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