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The Origin Of The World’s Most Famous Tongue Twister

“She Sells Sea Shells By The Sea Shore” is arguably the most famous tongue twister in the world, and even though the tongue twister itself dates back to around 1908 the true story it’s based on is much older.

The “she” in the rhyme is Mary Anning from Dorset, England, who dug up fossils along the coast and sold them to tourists during the first half of the 19th century.

Digging up fossils was a family business, one which Mary took over when her father passed away in 1810, and even though the fossil trade was booming she struggled to make money because each fossil took her so long to dig up.

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Now, thanks to the tongue twister, Mary is known for selling sea shells even though she should be far more famous for her contributions to paleontology, a branch of science which was very young in her day.

And speaking of young- Mary was just 12-years-old when she and her brother dug up the skull of a four-foot Ichthyosaur and gained international fame among fossil enthusiasts:

This discovery came decades before Darwin first published his model of evolution, at a time when most people were still ignorant of the earth’s ancient past. Most scientists believed that animals did not go extinct: they would instead migrate to a location more suited to their needs.

When Anning’s discovery was put on display, it created a considerable buzz among scientists and brought Anning to the attention of the wider community of archaeologists. By 1820, Anning was running a modestly successful fossil business and was working in collaboration with other geologists, finding a number of important fossils in the process.

A famous geologist, Henry De la Beche, created illustrations of ancient life forms in their natural habitat based on the fossils unearthed by Anning. This created some revenue which La Beche generously donated to Anning; yet despite this new-found fame, she continued to struggle financially.

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

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