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Articulate: Contortion

I work with a young man who is having some trouble being understood at work.

He grew up in a neighborhood with a very distinct accent and maintained this speech pattern even while attending a college out of state. It is his manner of speech — However, his chosen employment requires him to acquire another, so here we are.

This week after a series of exercises he said, “This feels like contortion.” As it turns out contortion was the most beautifully articulated word of the day. It has that beginning velar /k/ uses two different forms of back vowel /ʌ/ (uh sound) and /ɔ/ with /ʃ/ (sh-sound) and /n/ highlighting the shifts. (IPA: kʌntɔrʃʌn). It’s a lovely word.

Feel free to ignore that whole IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) breakdown, that isn’t the point. The point is that some words dance in your mouth. They are fun to say and because they are fun, they can help you clarify your articulation.

So today, take contortion for a spin, either on its own or in the sentence below. As with all articulation exercises the point is not speed, but a slow exploratory journey through sounds. Give it a try:

English diction is a cornucopia of contortion, calamity, and curiosity.

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Gina Razón is the Founder and CEO at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service verbal communication studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over two decades of experience as a teacher of voice and speech, is a communication and change facilitator, and is a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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