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Spoonerisms, genuine or otherwise

Posted by TheFallen on November 13, 2002

In Reply to: Spoonerisms posted by Bruce Kahl on November 13, 2002

: : : : Recent discussions prompt me to wonder what exactly a spoonerism is. Is it simply a transposition of letters or syllables, or do the transposed elements have to make sense? For example, "cattleships and bruisers" makes sense but "naily dewspaper" doesn't. Any advice?

: : : From

: : : Word of the Day for Monday April 15, 2002:

: : : spoonerism \SPOO-nuh-riz-uhm\, noun:
: : : The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words.

: : : Some examples:
: : : We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish ["half-formed wish"] inside us.
: : : The Lord is a shoving leopard ["loving shepherd"].
: : : It is kisstomary to cuss ["customary to kiss"] the bride.
: : : Is the bean dizzy ["dean busy"]?
: : : When the boys come back from France, we'll have the hags flung out ["flags hung out"]!
: : : Let me sew you to your sheet ["show you to your seat"].

: : : Spoonerism comes from the name of the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), a kindly but nervous Anglican clergyman and educationalist. All the above examples were committed by (or attributed to) him.

: : Spoonerisms don't have to make sense. "Paily daper" qualifies. It's just that the ones that do make sense, especially if it's a ludicrous sense, get quoted over and over.

: I never heard of the term until Mr.bob used it a while back.
: I was in a rock and roll band a while back and we called ourselves the Polling Rapers. My mother STILL asks me what it means.

I'm rather fond of the Reverend William A. Spoooner, who was warden of my old college - though he died near on 50 years before I arrived there. Attributed to him in the Columbia World Of Quotations (and therefore almost certainly genuine) is the following reprimand to a particularly lax undergraduate.

"Sir, you have tasted two whole worms; you have hissed all my mystery lectures and been caught fighting a liar in the quad; you will leave by the next town drain."

Also apocryphally attributed to him is the following toast made in New College dining hall - I can find no source that backs this one up.

"Let us glaze our (r)arses to the queer old dean."