Wikipedia: A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched.
It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this mistake.
A spoonerism is also known as a marrowsky, after a Polish count who suffered from the same impediment.
While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue resulting from unintentionally getting one’s words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words. Spoonerisms are commonly used intentionally in humour.
Most spoonerisms were probably never uttered by William Spooner himself, but rather made up by colleagues and students as a pastime.
- “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” (dear old queen, referring to Queen Victoria)
- “Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?” (customary to kiss)
- “The Lord is a shoving leopard.” (a loving shepherd)
- “A blushing crow.” (crushing blow)
- “A well-boiled icicle” (well-oiled bicycle)
- “You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle.” (lighting a fire)
- “Is the bean dizzy?” (Dean busy)
- “Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet.” (occupying my pew…show me to another seat)
- “You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain.” (missed…history, wasted…term, down train)
It started as a child when I used to say “key cars” “web cobbers” and “hanger coats”.
During my teen years, a game of tennis with my friends turned into an hysterical laughing session when I “bashed the dayling livelights” out of the ball!
I was also caught making my bed with “double shed beats” and using “oderarm deunderant” after a shower!
I once had a beer at the “Hoach and Courses” (Coach & Horse pub) with my sister’s friends “Lunar and Ark” (Arna & Luke). And I have a friend with two boys called “Finn and Qualim” (Quinn and Fehlim).
During my teaching years, I created so many spoonerisms that most have thankfully disappeared into the ether forever.
But my trusty Assistants kept a record of their favourites…!
“Hornamental Oods” when I was trying to explain to a class about the little statues on the front of some cars!
“Is this a staff wheeting meek” (meeting week)
“cot calling the petal black”
“Nosie’s rotes” (Rosie’s notes)
“colour and cough” (collar and cuff sling)
“Tea of Seymour” (Sea of Timor)
“Crucky-sawly” (sucky crawly)
And I introduced two visiting musicians as “Garol and Carry Crees” (Gary & Carol Crees)!
Imagine my delight when I recently discovered that Shel Silverstein has created a book for people like me called Runny Babbit.
It was a labour of love for Silverstein.
He worked on it for over twenty years & it was eventually published posthumously in 2005.
Silverstein’s website says “witty and wondrous, is a poetry collection of spoonerisms, which twist the tongue and tease the mind!“