The forgotten legend behind the world’s most famous tongue twister.

FeaturedInstant ArticlesNewsAug 26, 2016 Ian Harvey


For most of us, tongue twisters are simply an amusing childish wordplay. Nevertheless, little did we know there was quite some significant history behind one of the world’s most famous tongue twisters of all.

“She sells seashells by the seashore” this tongue twister take us back to the 19th century when the woman referred to simply as “she” was a real person, and carried the name of Mary Anning.

Anning was born on 21 May 1799, in Dorset, southwest of England. Her family had a rather unusual way of earning money for living. It involved digging up fossils and selling them to people who visited the coast. Although this might sound strange, but back in the 19th century, rich and middle-class people loved having curio cabinets as showpieces in their living rooms. These cabinets were often decorated with various natural relics including fossils, most of them souvenirs brought from abroad.


Portrait of Mary Anning with her dog Tray – Natural History Museum, London

Drawing of Mary Anning’s house in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England.

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