Spoonerisms are phrases or sentences which result when the initial letters of two or more words are transposed, usually to humorous effect. Named after Rev. William Spooner, (1844 – 1930), an Oxford don who uttered them inadvertently.
He famously proposed a toast to “our queer Dean” instead of to “our dear Queen”, much to his own embarrassment. At another time, upon dropping his hat, he is reputed to have said “Will nobody pat my hiccup?” although many doubt it.
Spooner was self-conscious about his accidental slip-ups and students at Oxford would deliberately try to engage him in conversation, in the hope he would say something amusing. On occasion he became exasperated and apparently once uttered “… you just want me to say one of those … those … things!”.
Surprisingly few of his ‘things’ have been remembered, but the apocryphal tale of Spooner rebuking a student: “Sir, your conduct has been nothing less than disgraceful; you have hissed three of my mystery lectures, you have been convicted of fighting a liar in the inner quad, and in addition, there is no doubt whatever in my own mind that you have tasted a whole worm! Please leave Oxford on the next town drain” really has no credibility. Although he may have said on different occasions “you have tasted a whole worm” to one lazy lad and “you have hissed three of my mystery lectures” to another, nobody is sure. He probably didn’t say “fighting a liar” nor “town drain” (the ‘down train’ went down to London). What is certain is that most spoonerisms weren’t actually spoken by Spooner, tho’ two others from his era are:
It’s roaring with pain … (it’s pouring with rain)
The Lord is a shoving leopard … (The Lord is a loving shepherd).
One funny wartime spoonerism:
When our boys come home from France, we will have the hags flung out
These are some non-Spooner spoonerisms I’ve found on my travels in the world of wordplay. Can you think of any more?
SPOONERISMS … (n.b. spoonerisms are spoken so spelling may change)
I’m chewing doors
Candle with hair
As the flow cries
Wave the sails!
At the lead of spite
Go in with buns glazing
I hit him with a blushing crow
He had appallingly mad banners!
You stink! Go shake a tower!
I’m making a chilled grease sandwich
Don’t spew up your screech
This could be my ducky lay!
Did you wake your dog for a talk?
Do you drive a kick-up or a pamper?
The braves are waking
Tarp as a Shack
Far and Tether
Hails of Bay
WARNING: Risque … (the good Reverend would be offended)
I love cop porn!
Do hollow your fart
You are a shining wit (sorry Rev!)
… and finally, there’s the rude one about stunts, which schoolboys have been tittering over for generations, probably since Rev Spooner’s day. It’s distasteful yet cunning.
Look for all my wordplay posts on:
Palindromes, Anagrams, Spoonerisms, Pangrams and the Oxymoron.