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ITS CAUSE AND CURE
BENJAMIN NATHANIEL BOGUE
A Chronic Stammerer for Almost Twenty Years; Originator of the Bogue
Unit Method of Restoring Perfect Speech; Founder of the Bogue Institute
for Stammerers and Editor of the "Emancipator," a magazine devoted to
the Interests of Perfect Speech
TO MY MOTHER
That wonderful woman whose unflagging courage held me to a task that I
never could have completed alone and who when all others failed, stood
by me, encouraged me and pointed out the heights where lay
success - this volume is dedicated
PART I - MY LIFE AS A STAMMERER
I. Starting Life Under a Handicap
II. My First Attempt to Be Cured
III. My Search Continues
IV. A Stammerer Hunts a Job
V. Further Futile Attempts to Be Cured
VI. I Refuse to Be Discouraged
VII. The Benefit of Many Failures
VIII. Beginning Where Others Had Left Off
PART II - STAMMERING AND STUTTERING
The Causes, Peculiarities, Tendencies and Effects
I. Speech Disorders Defined
II. The Causes of Stuttering and Stammering
III. The Peculiarities of Stuttering and Stammering
IV. The Intermittent Tendency
V. The Progressive Tendency
VI. Can Stammering and Stuttering Be Outgrown?
VII. The Effect on the Mind
VIII. The Effect on the Body
IX. Defective Speech in Children, (1) The Pre-Speaking Period
X. Defective Speech in Children, (2) The Formative Period
XI. Defective Speech in Children, (3) The Speech-Setting Period
XII. The Speech Disorders of Youth
XIII. Where Does Stammering Lead?
PART III - THE CURE OF STAMMERING AND STUTTERING
I. Can Stammering Really Be Cured?
II. Cases That "Cure Themselves"
III. Cases That Cannot Be Cured
IV. Can Stammering Be Cured by Mail?
V. The Importance of Expert Diagnosis
VI. The Secret of Curing Stuttering and Stammering
VII. The Bogue Unit Method Described
VIII. Some Cases I Have Met
PART IV - SETTING THE TONGUE FREE
I. The Joy of Perfect Speech
II. How to Determine Whether You Can Be Cured
III. The Bogue Guarantee and What It Means
IV. The Cure Is Permanent
V. A Priceless Gift - An Everlasting Investment
VI. The Home of Perfect Speech
VII. My Mother and The Home Life at the Institute
VIII. A Heart-to-Heart Talk with Parents
IX. The Dangers of Delay
Considerably more than a third of a century has elapsed since I
purchased my first book on stammering. I still have that quaint little
book made up in its typically English style with small pages, small
type and yellow paper back - the work of an English author whose obtuse
and half-baked theories certainly lent no clarity to the stammerer's
understanding of his trouble. Since that first purchase my library of
books on stammering has grown until it is perhaps the largest
individual collection in the world. I have read these books - many of
them several times, pondered over the obscurities in some, smiled at
the absurdities in others and benefited by the truths in a few. Yet,
with all their profound explanations of theories and their verbose
defense of hopelessly unscientific methods, the stammerer would be
disappointed indeed, should he attempt to find in the entire collection
a practical and understandable discussion of his trouble.
This insufficiency of existing books on stammering has encouraged me to
bring out the present volume. It is needed. I know this - because I
spent almost twenty years of my life in a well-nigh futile search for
the very knowledge herein revealed. I haunted the libraries, was a
familiar figure in book stores and a frequent visitor to the
second-hand dealer. Yet these efforts brought me comparatively
little - not one-tenth the information that this book contains.
Perhaps it is but a colossal conceit that prompts me to offer this
volume to those who stutter and stammer as I did. Yet, I cannot but
believe that almost twenty years' personal experience as a stammerer
plus more than twenty-eight years' experience in curing speech
disorders has supplied me with an intensely practical, valuable and
worth-while knowledge on which to base this book.
After having stammered for twenty years you have pretty well run the
whole gamut of mockery, humiliation and failure. You understand the
stammerer's feelings, his mental processes and his peculiarities.
And when you add to this more than a quarter of a century, every waking
hour of which has been spent in alleviating the stammerer's
difficulty - and successfully, too - you have a ground-work of first-hand
information that tends toward facts instead of fiction and toward
practice instead of theory.
These are my qualifications.
I have spent a life-time in studying stammering, stuttering and kindred
speech defects. I have written this book out of the fullness of that
experience - I might almost say out of my daily work. I have made no
attempt at literary style or rhetorical excellence and while the work
may be homely in expression the information it contains is definite and
positive - and what is more important - it is authoritative.
I hope the reader will find the book useful - yes, and helpful. I hope
he will find in it the way to Freedom of Speech - his birthright and the
birthright of every man.
BENJAMIN NATHANIEL BOGUE
Indianapolis September, 1929
Its Cause and Cure
MY LIFE AS A STAMMERER
STARTING LIFE UNDER A HANDICAP
I was laughed at for nearly twenty years because I stammered. I found
school a burden, college a practical impossibility and life a misery
because of my affliction.
I was born in Wabash county, Indiana, and as far back as I can
remember, there was never a time when I did not stammer or stutter. So
far as I know, the halting utterance came with the first word I spoke
and for almost twenty years this difficulty continued to dog me
When six years of age, I went to the little school house down the road,
little realizing what I was to go through with there before I left.
Previous to the time I entered school, those around me were my family,
my relatives and my friends - people who were very kind and considerate,
who never spoke of my difficulty in my presence, and certainly never
laughed at me.
At school, it was quite another matter. It was fun for the other boys
to hear me speak and it was common pastime with them to get me to talk
whenever possible. They would jibe and jeer - and then ask, "What did
you say? Why don't you learn to talk English?" Their best entertainment
was to tease and mock me until I became angry, taunt me when I did, and
ridicule me at every turn.
It was not only in the school yard and going to and from school that I
suffered - but also in class. When I got up to recite, what a spectacle
I made, hesitating over every other word, stumbling along, gasping for
breath, waiting while speech returned to me. And how they laughed at
me - for then I was helpless to defend myself. True, my teachers tried
to be kind to me, but that did not make me talk normally like other
children, nor did it always prevent the others from laughing at me.
The reader can imagine my state of mind during these school days. I
fairly hated even to start to school in the morning - not because I
disliked to go to school, but because I was sure to meet some of my
taunting comrades, sure to be humiliated and laughed at because I
stammered. And having reached the school room I had to face the
prospect of failing every time I stood up on my feet and tried to
There were four things I looked forward to with positive dread - the
trip to school, the recitations in class, recess in the school yard and
the trip home again. It makes me shudder even now to think of those
days - the dread with which I left that home of mine every school day
morning, the nervous strain, the torment and torture, and the constant
fear of failure which never left me. Imagine my thoughts as I left
parents and friends to face the ribald laughter of those who did not
understand. I asked myself: "Well, what new disgrace today? Whom will I
meet this morning? What will the teacher say when I stumble? How shall
I get through recess? What is the easiest way home?"
These and a hundred other questions, born of nervousness and fear, I
asked myself morning after morning. And day after day, as the hours
dragged by, I would wonder, "Will this day NEVER end? Will I NEVER get
out of this?"
Such was my life in school. And such is the daily life of thousands of
boys and hundreds of girls - a life of dread, of constant fear, of
endless worry and unceasing nervousness.
But, as I look back at the boys and girls who helped to make life
miserable for me in school, I feel for them only kindness. I bear no
malice. They did no more than their fathers and mothers, many of them,
would have done. They little realized what they were doing. They had no
intention to do me personal injury, though there is no question in my
mind but that they made my trouble worse. They did not know how
terribly they were punishing me. They saw in my affliction only fun,
while I saw in it - only misery.
MY FIRST ATTEMPT TO BE CURED
I can remember very clearly the positive fear which always accompanied
a visit to our friends or neighbors, or the advent of visitors at my
home. Many a time I did not have what I desired to eat because I was
afraid to ask for it. When I did ask, every eye was turned on me, and
the looks of the strangers, with now and then a half-suppressed smile,
worked me up to a nervous state that was almost hysterical, causing me
to stutter worse than at any other time.
At one time - I do not remember what the occasion was - a number of
people had come to visit us. A large table had been set and loaded with
good things. We sat down, the many dishes were passed around the table,
as was the custom at our home, and I said not a word. But before long
the first helping was gone - a hungry boy soon cleans his plate - and I
was about to ask for more when I bethought myself. "Please pass - " I
could never do it - "p" was one of the hard sounds for me. "Please
pass - " No, I couldn't do it. So busying myself with the things that
were near at hand and helping myself to those things which came my way,
I made out the meal - but I got up from the table hungry and with a
deeper consciousness of the awfulness of my affliction. Slowly it began
to dawn on me that as long as I stammered I was doomed to do without
much of the world's goods. I began to see that although I might for a
time sit at the World's Table of Good Things in Life I could hope to
have little save that which someone passed on to me gratuitously.
As long as I was at home with my parents, life went along fairly well.
They understood my difficulty, they sympathized with me, and they
looked at my trouble in the same light as myself - as an affliction much
to be regretted. At home I was not required to do anything which would
embarrass me or cause me to become highly excited because of my
straining to talk, but on the other hand I was permitted to do things
which I could do well, without talking to any one.
The time was coming, however, when it would be "Sink or Swim" for me,
since it would not be many years until a sense of duty, if nothing
else, would send me out to make my own way. This time comes to all
boys. It was soon to be MY task to face the world - to make a living for
myself. And this was a thing which, strangely enough for a boy of my
age, I began to think about. I had some experience in meeting people
and in trying to transact some of the minor business connected with our
farm and I found out that I had no chance along that line as long as I
And yet it seemed as if I was to be compelled to continue to stammer
the rest of my life, for my condition was getting worse every day. This
was very clear to me - and very plain to my parents. They were anxious
to do something for me and do it quickly, so they called in a skilled
physician. They told him about my trouble. He gave me a cursory
examination and decided that my stuttering was caused by nervousness,
and gave me some very distasteful medicine, which I was compelled to
take three times a day. This medicine did me no good. I took it for
five years, but there was no progress made toward curing my stuttering.
The reason was simple. Stuttering cannot be cured by bitter medicine.
The physician was using the wrong method. He was treating the effect
and not the cause. He was of the opinion that it was the nervousness
that caused my stuttering, whereas the fact of the matter was, it was
my stuttering that caused the nervousness.
I do not blame this physician in the least because of his failure, for
he was not an expert on the subject of speech defects. While he was a
medical man of known ability, he had not made a study of speech
disorders and knew practically nothing about either the cause or cure
of stammering or stuttering. Even today, prominent medical men will
tell you that their profession has given little or no attention to
defects of speech and take little interest in such cases.
Some time later, after the physician had failed to benefit me, a
traveling medicine man came to our community, set up his tent, and
stayed for a week. Of course, like all traveling medicine men, his
remedies were cure-alls. One night in making his talk before the crowd,
he mentioned the fact that his wonderful concoction, taken with the
pamphlet that he would furnish, both for the sum of one dollar, would
cure stammering. I didn't have the dollar, so I did not buy. But the
next day I went back, and I took the dollar along. He got my dollar,
and I still have the book. Of course, I received no benefit whatever. I
later came to the conclusion that the medicine man had been in the
neighborhood long enough to have pointed out to him "BEN BOGUE'S BOY
WHO STUTTERS" (as I was known) and had decided that when I was in his
audience a hint or two on the virtues of his wonderful remedy in cases
of stammering, would be sufficient to extract a dollar from me for a
These experiences, however, were valuable to me, even though they were
costly, for they taught me a badly-needed lesson, to wit: That drugs
and medicines are not a cure for stammering.
Many of the people who came in contact with me, and those who talked
the matter over with my parents, said that I would outgrow the trouble.
"All that is necessary," remarked one man, "is for him to forget that
he stammers, and the trouble will be gone."
This was a rather foolish suggestion and simply proved how little the
man knew about the subject. In the first place, a stammerer cannot
forget his difficulty - who can say that he would be cured if he did?
You might as well say to a man holding a hot poker, "If you will only
forget that the poker is hot, it will be cool." It takes something more
than forgetfulness to cure stammering.
The belief held by both my parents and myself that I would outgrow my
difficulty was one of the gravest mistakes we ever made. Had I followed
the advice of others who believed in the outgrowing theory it
eventually would have caused me to become a confirmed stammerer,
entirely beyond hope of cure.
Today, as a result of twenty-eight years' daily contact with
stammerers, I know that stammering cannot be outgrown. The man who
suggests that it is possible to cure stammering by outgrowing it is
doing a great injustice to the stammerer, because he is giving him a
false hope - in fact the most futile hope that any stammerer ever had. I
wish I could paint in the sky, in letters of fire, the truth that
"Stammering cannot be outgrown," because this, of all things, is the
most frequent pitfall of the stammerer, his greatest delusion and one
of the most prolific causes of continued suffering. I know whereof I
speak, because I tried it myself. I know how many different people held
up to me the hope that I would outgrow it.
My father offered me a valuable shotgun if I would stop stammering. My
mother offered me money, a watch and a horse and buggy. These
inducements made me strain every nerve to stop my imperfect utterance,
but all to no avail. At this time I knew nothing of the underlying
principles of speech and any effort which I made to stop my stammering
was merely a crude, misdirected attempt which naturally had no chances
I learned that prizes will never cure stammering. I found out too,
something I have never since forgotten: that the man, woman or child
who stammers needs no inducement to cause him to desire to be cured,
because the change from his condition as a stammerer to that of a
nonstammerer is of more inducement to the sufferer than all the money
you could offer him. I have never yet seen a man, woman or child who
wanted to stammer or stutter.
The offer of prizes doing no good, I took long trips to get my mind off
the affliction. I did everything in my power, worked almost day and
night, exerted every effort I could command - it was all in vain.
The idea that I would finally outgrow my difficulty was strengthened in
the minds of my parents and friends by the fact that there were times
when my impediment seemed almost to disappear, but to our surprise and
disappointment, it always came back again, each time in a more
aggravated form; each time with a stronger hold upon me than ever
I found out, then, one of the fundamental characteristics of
stammering - its intermittent tendency. In other words, I discovered
that a partial relief from the difficulty was one of the true symptoms
of the malady. And I learned further that this relief is only temporary
and not what we first thought it to be, viz: a sign that the disorder
MY SEARCH CONTINUES
My parents' efforts to have me cured, however, did not cease with my
visit to the medicine man. We were still looking for something that
would bring relief. My teacher, Miss Cora Critchlow, handed me an
advertisement one day, telling me of a man who claimed to be able to
cure stammering by mail. In the hope that I would get some good from
the treatment, my parents sent this mail order man a large sum of
money. In return for this I was furnished with instructions to do a
number of useless things, such as holding toothpicks between my teeth,
talking through my nose, whistling before I spoke a word, and many
other foolish things. It was at this time that I learned once and for
all, the imprudence of throwing money away on these mail order "cures,"
so-called, and I made up my mind to bother no more with this man and
So far as the mail order instructions were concerned, they were crude
and unscientific - merely a hodge-podge of pseudo-technical phraseology
and crass ignorance - a meaningless jargon scarcely intelligible to the
most highly educated, and practically impossible of interpretation by
the average stammerer who was supposed to follow the course. Even after
I had, by persistent effort, interpreted the instructions and followed
them closely for many months, there was not a sign of the slightest
relief from my trouble. It was evident to me even then that I could
never cure myself by following a mail cure.
Today, after twenty-eight years of experience in the cure of
stammering, I can say with full authority, that stammering cannot be
successfully treated by mail. The very nature of the difficulty, as
well as the method of treatment, make it impossible to put the
instructions into print or to have the stammerer follow out the method
from a printed sheet.
As I approached manhood, my impediment began to get worse. My
stuttering changed to stammering. Instead of rapidly repeating
syllables or words, I was unable to begin a word. I stood transfixed,
my limbs drawing themselves into all kinds of unnatural positions.
There were violent spasmodic movements of the head, and contractions of
my whole body. The muscles of my throat would swell, affecting the
respiratory organs, and causing a curious barking sound. When I finally
got started, I would utter the first part of the sentence slowly,
gradually increase the speed, and make a rush toward the end.
At other times, when attempting to speak, my lips would pucker up,
firmly set together, and I would be unable to separate them, until my
breath was exhausted. Then I would gasp for more breath, struggling
with the words I desired to speak, until the veins of my forehead would
swell, my face would become red, and I would sink back, wholly unable
to express myself, and usually being obliged to resort to writing.
These paroxysms left me extremely nervous and in a seriously weakened
condition. After one of these attacks, the cold perspiration would
break out on my forehead in great beads and I would sink into the
nearest chair, where I would be compelled to remain until I had
regained my strength.
My affliction was taking all my energy, sapping my strength, deadening
my mental faculties, and placing me at a hopeless disadvantage in every
way. I could do nothing that other people did. I appeared unnatural. I
was nervous, irritable, despondent. This despondency now brought about
a peculiar condition. I began to believe that everyone was more or less
an enemy of mine. And still worse, I came to believe that I was an
enemy of myself, which feeling threw me into despair, the depths of
which I do not wish to recall, even now.
I was not only miserably unhappy myself, I made everyone else around me
unhappy, although I did it, not intentionally, but because my
affliction had caused me to lose control of myself.
In this condition, my nerves were strained to the breaking point all
day long, and many a night I can remember crying myself to
sleep - crying purely to relieve that stored-up nervous tension, and f
ailing off to sleep as a result of exhaustion.
As I said before, there were periods of grace when the trouble seemed
almost to vanish and I would be delighted to believe that perhaps it
was gone forever - happy hope! But it was but a delusion, a mirage in
the distance, a new road to lead me astray. The affliction always
returned, as every stammerer knows - returned worse than before. All the
hopes that I would outgrow my trouble, were found to be false hopes.
For me, there was no such thing as outgrowing it and I have since
discovered that after the age of six only one-fifth of one per cent.
ever outgrow the trouble.
Another thing which I always thought peculiar when I was a stammerer
was the fact that I had practically no difficulty in talking to animals
when I was alone with them. I remember very well that we had a large
bulldog called Jim, which I was very fond of. I used to believe that
Jim understood my troubles better than any friend I had, unless it was
Old Sol, our family driving horse.
Jim used to go with me on all my jaunts - I could talk to him by the
hour and never stammer a word. And Old Sol - well, when everything
seemed to be going against me, I used to go out and talk things over
with Old Sol. Somehow he seemed to understand - he used to whinney
softly and rub his nose against my shoulder as if to say, "I
understand, Bennie, I understand!"
Somehow my father had discovered this peculiarity of my
affliction - that is, my ability to talk to animals or when alone.
Something suggested to him that my stammering could be cured, if I
could be kept by myself for several weeks. With this thought in mind,
he suggested that I go on a hunting and fishing trip in the wilds of
the northwest, taking no guide, no companion of any sort, so that there
would be no necessity of my speaking to any human being while I was
My father's idea was that if my vocal organs had a complete rest, I
would be restored to perfect speech. As I afterwards proved to my own
satisfaction by actual trial, this idea was entirely wrong. You can not
hope to restore the proper action of your vocal organs by ceasing to
use them. The proper functioning of any bodily organ is the result, not
of ceasing to use it at all, but rather of using it correctly.
This can be very easily proved to the satisfaction of any one. Take the
case of the small boy who boasts of his muscle. He is conscious of an
increasing strength in the muscles of his arm not because he has failed
to use these muscles but because he has used them continually, causing