The real story of the "she" from the old tongue twister, 'She Sells Seashells'

We all have failed trying to say thing tongue twister right but as it turns out, this was originally written to highlight the accomplishments of a woman.

                            The real story of the "she" from the old tongue twister, 'She Sells Seashells'
(Source:Getty Images)

"She sells sea shells by the seashore. The shells she sells are surely seashells. So if she sells shells on the seashore, I'm sure she sells seashore shells." Just by reading it out loud our mind is trying its best to say every word in this old tongue twister properly. Due to its difficulty, the tongue twister has gained quite a reputation and despite trying their hardest, many have failed in mastering this sentence of convoluted and alliterative wordplay. While navigating through the tricky word construction, you might have wondered where the tongue twister originated from, and if there was indeed a "she" who sold shells by the seashore?

As it turns out there was a woman centuries ago who used to sell seashells on the seashore and ended up being immortalized in the tongue twister. Mary Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England and was the eldest daughter of a cabinetmaker. In order to make more money for the family, she along with her family supplemented their income by digging up fossils to sell to tourists on the shore. 

With the income of the family not enough to educate all the children of the house, Mary could not get the proper education she desired. She knew the basics of reading and writing. Despite this, little did she know that one day she would be changing the way we understood the world and its evolution. While Mary may not have gotten the opportunity for expanding her knowledge, thanks to her father, she and her brother, Joseph, were taught how to collect fossilized shells from the Jurassic Coast, a fossil-rich cliffside on England’s coast, as reported by Little Things

Starting at a young age of 10, Mary and her brother learned how to spot, collect, label, and catalog fossils dugged out by them. The families income fell short after her father passed away in 1810. In order to ensure that they had enough money, the fossil hunting and selling skills became a necessity for them to survive.

It was a booming business as many people then had the interest and passion for collecting fossil specimens, and other natural wonders and proudly showcasing them in their cabinet as part of their collection. Unfortunately, Mary and her family could not make a lot of money from it initially.

However, things changed when Mary and her brother came across a four-foot Ichthyosaur skull. Mary was just 12-years-old when she discovered it. 

A few months later, Mary, along with the help of her brother unearthed the rest of the skeleton, making it the first major fossil discovery of her life. The skeleton was put on display, and undoubtedly it became a major aattraction for people across the country. Until this point, many were unaware of creatures that used to dwell on Earth in prehistoric times and with Mary's discovery, people got a chance to see what life looked like then. 

The skeleton was studied and used as a base to understand how life on Earth grew and evolved. However, this was not the end of the journey for Mary and her road to discovering fossils. By the 1820s, she started handling the family business while working alongside other geologists and fossil experts to classify the various specimens that she uncovered on her search. One geologist, Henry De la Beche, came forward to assist her in the discovery by painting an illustration of what the fossil would have looked like. He then paid a part of his profits, which he got by selling the pictures, to Mary.  

Even though Mary was becoming famous in the community, she still suffered financially. In 1823, when she was 24 years old, Mary discovered the Plesiosau, which is commonly known as the Loch Ness monster. She went on to discover other species which led people to talk about extinction, geologic ages, and evolution. This was 36 years before Darwin wrote his famous, 'The Origin of Species'. 

Her discovery helped people see a side of earth and life that they had never seen before. This also created a base for the idea of extinction as prior to this, people thought that animals did not go extinct but they just moved to another place. Despite all the efforts she put, Mary was not recognized for her work as it was hard for people to accept the achievements of a young girl. Her findings were published by the famous anatomist Georges Cuvier. To make things worse, other people stole her work and passed it off as theirs. 

Despite this, there were some people who appreciated the young mind, and Mary's accomplishments were even written by Charles Dickens in 1856. In 1847, Anning died from breast cancer. In 1908, the famous “she sells seashells” tongue twister was written in honor of Mary but as time went by, the story behind the tongue twister was lost.