In C.C. Chen, C.C. Chen, H.F. Fu, Y.L. Chang, & Y.T. Hsiao (Eds.) Papers from the fifth conference on English language teaching and learning in the Republic of China (pp. 211-225). Taipei: Crane Publishing Co., Ltd, 1988.
A Pronunciation Course That Goes Beyond Linguistics
Johanna E. Katchen
Introduction and Background
What could sound more boring than an hour or two of pronouncing sounds or words in isolation? [iɪ], [eɪ], [uʊ], [oʊ], beet, bait, boot, boat. Yet the correct pronunciation of English phonemes and the distinction of minimal pairs are necessary skills that the university student, especially the English language major, should be able to master. So the question becomes--How can these skills be taught in a way that the students and teachers find stimulating? This paper presents a few of the activities that the author has used successfully with first year foreign language majors at National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, R.O.C.
English pronunciation is a one hour a week, zero credit course that first year foreign language majors are required to take both fall and spring semesters. Students often vary greatly in pronunciation skills, from those with near-native fluency and pronunciation (both overseas Chinese and Taiwan educated) to those whom even their patient teachers have trouble understanding. So first, to determine roughly the ability levels, students are assigned a pretest the first day of class. They must each read an assigned passage two or three paragraphs in length onto a cassette tape and give the tape to the teacher in the next class. I have used the first two paragraphs of Thurber's "The Night the Ghost Got In," reading it with the students during the first class and going over new words. The passage used should not contain a large number of new or unusual vocabulary, and any "hard" words (such as hullabaloo and Indianapolis in the Thurber passage) may be ignored by the evaluator.
The purpose of this pretest is to gain a general feeling of the level of the class and to identify those with excellent pronunciation and fluency. This top ten percent or so are not required to attend the class and each receives a grade of 80 for the course, the highest grade possible. A pretest is also given at the beginning of the second semester. In short, whenever a student achieves an acceptable level of pronunciation, s/he is no longer required to attend the course. Although these exempted students could also benefit from further practice, this policy is in line with the zero credit value: the course is viewed as somewhat remedial. More time can therefore be spent with those who are in greater need of help.
What follows is a summary of the course English Pronunciation. The first part gives a very basic account of the linguistic content and the structure of the course. Second, the use of literature is discussed, including prose writings, poetry, and speeches. Third, the use of songs for pronunciation practice is explained, followed by sections of tongue twisters and cultural materials. Finally, some concluding remarks are made.
Linguistic Content and Structure of the Course
Any pronunciation course should have its foundation in linguistics. This is especially critical for language majors, many of whom will become teachers or do some teaching later in life. Because these students are also required to take Introduction to Linguistics their freshman year, I teach the course so that they can apply the phonetic theory of the linguistics class to the applied practice in our pronunciation class.
During the first semester I give two phonetics lectures. The one on the standard American English vowel system I give at the second or third class meeting, when we begin to work with vowels. The lecture on consonants I give somewhere around the middle of the first semester, as we begin to concentrate on the pronunciation of English consonants. Short explanations are given all during the course as needed, including observations on English stress and intonation. There is more emphasis on stress and intonation the second semester.
The text I have been using is Standard American English Pronunciation, publishes by Crane, Taipei. It was recommended to me by a teacher who taught the course previously; it is readily available in Taiwan, it is cheap, and there are tapes to go with it. Other texts could just as well be used. PDs is excellent, as are Stress and Intonation Parts 1 and 2 and The Sounds of American English. Whatever the text used, most important is that it gives the students plenty of occasions for practice. Texts that class is not using may be gleaned for additional practice activities.
A typical lesson may go something like this. First I give a brief linguistic explanation of the sound or pair of sounds to be practiced that day. For example, [s] and [z] are both alveolar fricatives produced with a grooved tongue; the former is voiceless, the latter is voiced. We produce both sounds in isolation; at this point is have the whole class alternately hissing and buzzing at me in response to my hissing and buzzing at them. Some Chinese students have trouble with [z], producing instead the affricate [dz] used in Mandarin or, occasionally, a kind of retroflex [r]. However, all of them can produce [s], with only a very few occasionally producing a dental [š] before the high front vowel [i], as in Standard Mandarin. Therefore, I teach [z] through [s], sometimes using a very short listening comprehension exercise to see if students can hear the difference between [z] and [dz].
Then we move on to the exercises in the text, which are usually words and phrases and minimal pairs. It is often here where student problems surface, when they have to produce the sound in the environment of other sounds, when they have to move their tongues from one position to another and change the shape of the oral cavity. The teacher must be extremely creative and try to find a way for the student produce the sound in the required context without spending too much tome with any individual student. (Students with real problems should be worked with individually or in small groups after class.) Sometimes I out in a short tongue twister at this point, for example, for [s]: Sister Suzie sits sewing socks for seasick suffering sailors; or for [z]: Zany zebras zip and zoom (both of these are from Smalley); or combining the phrases in our textbook to Please send these zebras to the zoos in the amusement zones down this zigzag path. I generally only do one tongue twister at a time and then go back to the text. Later in the class I can give them another one, or I can use one to review what we practiced in a previous class. The main point is fast-paced variety.
Part of a class may be spent in reciting a poem or singing a song (see the sections on literature and music below) for extra practice beyond the phrase and sentence level. Sometimes this happens to tie in with holidays, as when we practiced [r] just before Christmas and for the final activity that day recited as a group and individually the words to the Christmas song Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and then we sang it.
I find it difficult to give homework to a pronunciation class. I could assign them to listen to tapes and repeat, but without monitoring, they may just be unknowingly reinforcing their own errors. During the second semester especially when only students with more serious pronunciation problems remain in the class, I often give the following assignment. I give the students something to read or have them choose something to read on tape; the general length is about half a page. I listen to the tape, write down the problems for myself, but give the corrections orally only on tape to each student after his reading. I ask him to repeat certain words or phrases on the next tape and I give the new assignment, which may be a different one from what other students are assigned. Thus we have a kind of individual running dialogue that goes on between teacher and student outside of class. Assigned readings are good for group evaluation or if the reading has something specific for the student to practice. Student-chosen material is useful in evaluating comprehensibility; the teacher does not know ahead of time what the student will say, so student speech must be clear. I tell students that in their future occupations they may have to speak English over the telephone, where there are no visual clues and the sound is distorted, so they might as well practice with me first by means of the tape recorder.
The structure of the course and of each class depends somewhat on the students. If students are having difficulty in one area, for example distinguishing [e] and [ɛ], then we spend more time on it, reviewing in the next class and a few weeks later. Other textbook lessons, such as the one on nasals, we run through quickly, since Chinese students generally have no trouble with the production of English nasals. What is most important is that the students get as much oral practice as possible, and the more in connected speech, the better. And fast-paced variety not only keeps the class interested, but it gives students different access to producing difficult sounds or combinations of sounds in a not-too-threatening environment. That is, if the teacher and other students are busy buzzing and groaning and tripping over tongue twisters, then student errors do not cause too much loss of face when even the teacher sometimes gets tongue-tied.
As has been stated previously, many of our students can produce a word properly in isolation, but they may encounter difficulty in connected speech. These may be problems with consonant clusters at word boundaries (adding [ə]), improper phrase or sentence intonation, or lack of fluency. The only way to overcome these difficulties is with practice at the sentence level or higher. Of course, phrase and sentence level intonation can and should be taught, and there are good texts and tapes available. However, sentences in isolation lose their uniqueness after the point has been taught. So why not have the students practice on real connected speech? And why not make it good English, and English of prose, poetry, and public speaking?
Writers are craftsmen of language, and the best writers produce objects worthy of our experience. Students should get this lesson in their literature classes, but there they most often read with the eyes, not with the ears and the mouth. It is said that there is a certain "mouth set" for each language and that therefore when we speak a new language, we must learn a new set of habits for our mouth, face, nose, and throat muscles. We can use prose readings for that practice. The readings presented in any given textbook may not be sufficient, or some may seem too short or too bland. Therefore, we need to find other sources of material.
I especially like Thurber for the pronunciation class. First of all, many of his fables are short enough to practice in class or to give for homework assignments on tape. Second, they tell a complete story simply enough (maybe with a little interpretation from the teacher) in Thurber's cock-eyed way to keep the students interested. And third, they elicit sentence intonation and give fluency practice. Also useful as Advanced anecdotes in American English and Advanced stories for reproduction, both by L.A. Hill; the vocabulary is controlled, but each story is short (about one half page), complete, and humorous. Other teachers may have their own favorites.
Poetry is physical. It must be experienced orally and aurally. What better way to get students to touch language than to have them recite poetry? Moreover, it presents another opportunity for the facial muscles to do calisthenics while the subtle abstract beauties of English may be appreciated.
Take Poe, for example. He used rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and alliteration in a most obvious way, yet he delights nevertheless. His overstatements are good lessons in the feel of English for the nonnative speaker--they are so easy to observe. The rhyme feels good, the rhythm emphasizes the intonation and stress patterns, the repetition makes for simplicity, and the alliteration challenges fluency. Moreover, not only are the poems physically fun to read, but Poe's ideas are downright weird! Try "Annabel Lee" or "The Bells" or "The Raven" (this longer poem can also be used for the fun of oral interpretation).
Let's take a look at the first stanza of Poe's "Annabel Lee."
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′
It was many and many a year ago,
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′ ˇ ′
In a kingdom by the sea,
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′ ˇ ′
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′
By the name of Annabel Lee;
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ˇ ′ ˇ ′
Than to love and be loved by me.
We can point out the alternating stress of English, explaining the iambic foot and why it is so often used for English (e.g., prepositional phrases: by me, to me, for him, by the name; article or adjective plus noun: a year, the sea, a maiden, this maiden, other thought; infinitive phrase: to love). Also worthy of illustration is the fact that English is stress-times, not syllable-timed. That is, not every syllable is pronounced in the same length of time. Even the most advanced of students often speak English with a nonnative rhythm. We can show, for example, that iambic meter sometimes has two unstressed syllables instead of one between the stressed syllables, e.g., in a kingdom by the sea. Here in and a are each half the length of -dom or the. In is much like a musical measure, where we can have one quarter note or two eights notes to fill the position, but the rhythm remains the same. Songs and tongue twisters may also be used to illustrate English stress and rhythm, but songs sometimes distort these to fit the tune.
I have a few other favorite poems, for example Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "The Road Not Taken," or "Fire and Ice." T. S. Eliot's "Macavity the Mystery Cat" is great for a program with the readers made up as cats. Generally, shorter poems of a few stanzas are easier to work with in class, both for time and interest, but longer ones can be used with planning. Every spring, the Foreign Language Department at Tsing Hua University has an evening of poetry reading in English. It is open to all students, but all freshmen foreign language majors are required to participate, either individually or n groups. They can be as creative as they want in interpretation and delivery. This activity gives students a chance to familiarize themselves with famous poetry (the specific poems are assigned by literature teachers) and an opportunity to show off their English recitation to teachers and classmates.
When using poetry in the pronunciation class, after giving some very brief background information on the author and poem, we usually read the poem line by line, with the students reading after me. After each stanza brief questions may be asked about content. The students should know what each word means and understand the general meaning of the poem; this is not the place for literary analysis. Our majors take required survey courses on American and English literature during their four years of university study, so they will be dealing with these more famous poems again. After each stanza, I ask a few of the students to recite it individually, and then we move on to the next one, making sure that each student gets a chance to recite at least one stanza. Finally, we recite the whole poem in small groups or individually, taking turns by stanzas.
I believe that each teacher should use the poems that s/he likes best and teach them in any way that gives students maximum time speaking, varying the approach as necessary. Nothing carries over to the students like teacher enthusiasm. After all, the recitation of any work gives us the opportunity to practice (and correct) oral skills, so it might as well be what the participants find most pleasant.
Teachers may occasionally want students to recite some famous American speeches. Indeed, speech contests are very popular in Taiwan, both for Chinese and English. Tsing Hua's second year foreign language majors take two semesters of a public speaking course, English Speech. Although it is in this latter course that more emphasis is placed on the type of delivery associated with speaking in public, speeches may be used in the pronunciation class from time to time, For example, the lectures and speeches section in Stress and Intonation Part 2 is excellent for showing phrase intonation within connected speech. The texts are presented with stress and pause markings so that students will have a guide in listening to the tape and in their own reading aloud. Great American Speeches (texts and tapes) provide other examples for classroom listening and practice in using pauses, emphasis, and so on.
As mentioned above, I often have students say or read something onto a cassette tape and submit it to me for more specific analysis of their ability. Once, on one tape, after his reading, a student with somewhat poor pronunciation said that he wanted to sing a song for me. I was surprised, not at the content of that old song, but at that student's near perfect diction when he was dinging. There are other students, however, whose pronunciation seems to show no improvement at all when singing. I do not know why this is so. It may be that some students who like to sing have a keener awareness of singing skills, including diction. Can these skills be carried over to speech?
Vowels are voiced (voiceless vowels are rare in the world's languages) and are produced with the mouth open and with no obstruction in the oral cavity. This means that vowels are more easily heard and perceived than consonants are. Furthermore, is consonants are mumbled or mispronounced, they are not perceived or they are misperceived. Singing teachers tell us to compensate for this by overpronouncing consonants, especially finals. That is, we are to enunciate them more distinctly than we would in conversation, where, for example, final stops are typically unreleased and consonant clusters are simplified. Practice in the pronunciation of final consonants is especially important for speakers of Mandarin Chinese, where the only syllable finals are [n] and [ŋ], and in Peking Mandarin [r]. I tell my students that vowels travel farther than consonants and that people do not hear consonants as well, so that they should not mumble. This lesson is of critical importance in public speaking.
If songs are used in the pronunciation class, it probably matter little which specific songs are used. I use some seasonal songs that I like, a Halloween song, a Thanksgiving song, some secular Christmas songs, and so on. A shorter song, or just one verse, with a simple melody is good for in-class practice and makes for a pleasant final activity of a class period. Longer pieces may be used for special purposes. As with poetry, a a public performance might serve as the incentive to perfect the diction of a longer song.
There are several ways to teach songs. I generally ask some questions about the holiday of theme (if we haven't already been discussing that topic). Next, I give out the handout, which is often decorated with pictures or drawings to gain interest and emphasize the idea. For example, along with the baseball song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" I've taken a comic strip "Peanuts" with Charlie Brown striking out, illustrating "Strike One, Strike Two, Strike Three, You're Out!" I include the music with the words because I have found, to my satisfaction, that unlike most Americans of the same age, student in Taiwan can read music and, moreover, they like to sing.
Next I recite each line, explaining or asking students to explain any new vocabulary of meaning. The students as a group repeat each line, and general pronunciation problems are pointed out and corrected at this point. The students may then recite the whole song as a group and/or individual students recite a few lines for practice and for me to listen to and correct their pronunciation. Then I sing the song alone or play a tape recording of the song (I have my Christmas carols recorded to match the handout for parties and sing-alongs). Finally, we all sing together two or three times, gradually bringing the song up to normal tempo.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick? Who cares? Well, no one, really, especially since in reality we pick raw peppers and pickle them later. The meaning unimportant. In fact, even the most senseless or ridiculous meaning tongue twisters can be fun.
Probably no teacher would spend a whole hour on tongue twisters, unless possibly for review. In find them rather to be tension breakers, an enjoyable closing activity after a session of intense linguistic practice. First of all, anyone can make a mistake, even the teacher, especially if we try to go faster and faster, so we all laugh together. Second, they are good mouth exercises, both in general and for specific sounds practiced in that class period. There are some classics, of course, like Peter Piper, but the teacher can make up her own to suit the sound being practiced (e.g. [θ] Thirty thousand thin thieves thundered through the theater last Thursday).
The Dr. Seuss books for children Fox in Socks and Oh Say Can You Say? are good sources for longer, rhymed tongue twisters. For example, do you students have trouble with [r] and [l] after consonants? When they seem to have mastered these combinations in words and phrases, try this one from Fox in Socks (p. 47) for review, showing them the book, too, to get into the spirit of Dr. Seuss as American children do. (This one has a lot of [z]'s and [i]'s for Chinese students.)
Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees' cheese freeze.
That's what made these three free fleas sneeze.
After each student tries to recite this one individually without a slip, they may all go straight to the infirmary for tongue fatigue, but even the mumblers will have had to pay close attention to their diction.
Usually, I write the tongue twister on the board, adding key phonetic symbols if necessary, then say it to the class. the class repeats it several times in unison, perhaps in short phrases at first if the utterance is long or the students are having difficulty. Any new words are explained and any mispronounced words in the group are corrected. Then I ask individuals to recite, often calling on them at random, correcting any errors. After everyone has had a chance to recite individually, we try it faster and faster in unison until it breaks down. In may ask individuals to recite as fast as they can. Thus we end the class on a rather silly note, and the students exit laughing. Sometimes during the few minutes after class, the hallways echo with bits of such tongue twisting nonsense. Aha, the students are practicing on their own! (For a list of short tongue twisters, see Appendix.)
Pronunciation class can also present an opportunity to teach something of American culture. Some students may eventually to abroad to graduate school; others may work dealing with other English speakers right here in Taiwan. The pronunciation class should teach the students not only how to say it right, but also how not to say it wrong.
For example, take the distinction [i] and [ɪ]. Normally, a mispronunciation will be understood in the context, the harbour scene telling the listener ship [ʃɪp] was intended, the farm scene telling the listener sheep [ʃiɪp] was intended. Such errors may produce a chuckle, however.
That same [i] and [ɪ] may produce other problems. A Slovenian acquaintance told me of the time she wanted to tell her neighbor "I put clean sheets on the bed." Unfortunately, her [ʃiɪts] was pronounced [ʃɪts], giving the meaning "I put clean shits on the bed," clearly what the speaker intended. To illustrate another possible problem, a drawing (Claire, 1980) shows a man standing in the living room looking at a cake with a mental image of eating it and asking "May I take a piece?" However, he pronounces [piɪs] as [pɪs], giving the hostess in the kitchen the mental image of the man standing in front of the toilet! Elizabeth Claire, in Dangerous English Eardley Press, 1980) offers cartoons for these and many other examples of taboo words in American English, some of which may be inadvertently produced by mispronunciation. While we may not want to teach our students, nor would they want to learn, all the vulgar language of English, we can show then the obvious words to avoid and those sounds that have potential for trouble, such as [i] and [ɪ] for Chinese speakers. And while students may not be too embarrassed by saying ship for sheep, they may be much more motivated to pay attention to the distinction if they do not want to say shit instead of sheet.
Although the foreign student advisor and some professors on US campuses may be understanding of international students' language difficulties, other Americans may not be so tolerant, and they may even laugh at and be unwilling to make any effort to understand a foreign accent. These are the unfortunate realities of the primarily ethnocentric Americans that our students may have to face.
When Mainland China first started sending students to United States graduate schools, we were faced with many brilliant people who had to make enormous adjustments to American culture. One man was assigned to teach (as a teaching assistant) a freshman physics lab. Although is professors lauded his knowledge of physics, his students thought him incompetent. Why? He stood in front of the class with his arms stiffly at his sides, stoop-shouldered, staring at the floor, and mumbling softly. In short, his body language was all wrong. Americans feel shat standing up straight, looking someone in the eye, and speaking clearly as indicate confidence and capability. These feelings are below the level of conscious awareness. The students blamed the TA's poor English when in reality they were also responding to many other cues.
In western cultures, mumbling is generally associated with avoidance of guilt, especially if the eyes are averted at the same time. Students mumble when they are unsure of the answer, and so on. Soft speech is a strain on a listener expecting louder speech. Our students need to know how unclear or unaudible speech is perceived so that they can present themselves now and in the future not only as confident English speakers but as competent employees.
The main point of this paper is that pronunciation class need not be solely a linguistics class nor a session of meaningless repetition. Any English language material may be used for practice, especially if it is meaningful and enjoyable. For example, I have not mentioned the use of structured conversations because our first year students get a lot of practice with them in language lab class and find them boring in other classes. Therefore, I do not use them very often, except when we work on question intonation. While we cannot please all the students all the time, variety is more likely to keep things interesting for both teacher and students.
The most important lesson I have learned from my several years of teaching phonetics and pronunciation is that not all students perceive pronunciation the same way. An explanation or demonstration that works with one student my fall flat with another. Here the teacher must have a good background in phonetics in order to think rapidly of another approach, perhaps through a sound or sequence of sounds the student can produce.. Do students confuse [l] and [r] after consonants? Have them pronounce pleasure without [p], training without [t], glowing without [g] several times, then have them add a very light initial consonant, still emphasizing the [r] or [l], moving gradually to normal pronunciation. The teacher needs to have a grab bag of methods, from phonetic description to imitation of animal sounds.
One of the questions I have asked myself when I assign students to read a passage on tape is whether I'm testing pronunciation or whether I am testing reading ability. While this might pose a serious problem to a research study, I have come to think it matters little in the teaching situation as long as we do not include specialized vocabulary without teaching it first. Those students who stumble over a reading that others produce with very little difficulty are almost always those with poor pronunciation and intonation problems. If they cannot read a passage fluently after going over it in class and practicing it as many times as they want before recording it, then they surely need all the help and practice in speaking English as they can get.
One day I asked a student in the Chemistry Department who had never lived abroad why her English was so good. She said that all through junior and senior high school she after read aloud in her leisure time. Since then, other good students have given me the same answer. Unfortunately, junior and senior high school English classes are often too large for students to get much individual oral practice, yet we cannot really learn o speak a language without speaking it. And we cannot learn good pronunciation and intonation habits without practice. The more, the better. Therefore, in our pronunciation course, we read, repeat, and recite as often and as much and with as many different texts as we can. I believe that it is only by this patient and persistent practice that pronunciation will be perfected.
Claire, E. (1980). Dangerous English. Rochelle Park, NJ: Eardley Publications.
Dr. Seuss. (1965). Fox in socks. New York: Random House.
Dr, Seuss (1979). Oh say can you say? New York: Random House.
English Language Services. (1967). Stress and intonation, Part 1. Toronto: Collier Macmillan.
English Language Services. (1967). Stress and intonation, Part 2. Toronto: Collier Macmillan.
Great American speeches. (1981). Taipei: Crane.
Hill, L. A. (1981). Advanced anecdotes in American English. Oxford UP.
Hill, L. A. (1977). Advanced stories for reproduction 2. Oxford UP.
Houchin, T. D. (1976). The sounds of American English. Amsco School Publications.
Paulston, C. B., & Bruder, M.N. (1976). Teaching English as a second language: Techniques and procedures. Cambridge, MA: Winthrop Publishers, Inc.
Rivers, W. M., & Temperley, M. S. (1978). A practical guide to the teaching of English. New York: Oxford UP.
Smalley, W. A. (1973). A manual of articulatory phonetics. Pasadena, CA: Willaim Carey Library.
Standard American English pronunciation. (1980). Taipei: Crane.
Trager, E. C., & Henderson, S. C. (1983). Pronunciation drills (The PD's). Second Edition. Prentice Hall.
Trager, E. C. (1983). PD's in depth. Prentice Hall.
Appendix Tongue Twisters for Classroom Use
1. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. (If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?)
2. How much wood could a wood chuck shuck if a woodchuck could shuck wood?
3. Sister Sue sits sewing socks for seasick suffering sailors (from Smalley).
4. Zany zebras zip and zoom (from Smalley).
5. Please send these zebras to those zoos in the amusement zones along this zigzag path (adapted from Standard American English Pronunciation).
6. She sells sea shells by the seashore. The shells she sells are sea shells.
7. Thirty thousand thin thieves thundered through the theater last Thursday.
8. Thelma Thatcher thought that those thirty three thousand three hundred and thirty three thistles seemed silly.
9. Park your car in Harvard Yard.
10. It made me laugh to see a calf go down the path a mile and a half to take a bath (adapted from Smalley).
11. Henry, age eight, etched the letter H on the edge of the desk.
12. Betty Botter bought some butter
"But," she said, "this butter's bitter.
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter."
So she bought some better butter,
Better than the bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter,
And it made her batter better. (source unknown)