Lines On A Twister


The following tongue twister is found in Samuel Johnson’s seminal book A Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1755, under the definition of TWISTER:

When a twister a-twisting will twist him a twist,
For the twisting of his twist, he three twines doth intwist;
But if one of the twines of the twist do untwist,
The twine that untwisteth untwisteth the twist.
Untwirling the twine that untwisteth between,
He twirls, with his twister, the two in a twine;
Then twice having twisted the twines of the twine,
He twitcheth the twice he had twined in twain.
The twain that in twining before in the twine,
As twines were intwisted he now doth untwine;
Twist the twain inter-twisting a twine more between,
He, twirling his twister, makes a twist of the twine.

The above lines were written by the mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703). Those who are familiar with mathematical literature may recognize him as the one who coined the term “continued fraction”.


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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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