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Spoonerisms
by Marshall Dean


What is a Spoonerism? A Spoonerism is what happens when your tongue gets twisted and the sounds that come out are not what you tried to say.

Spoonerisms are phrases, sentences, or words where the sounds get swapped. Usually this happens by accident, particularly if you're speaking fast. Maybe the best way to explain a Spoonerism is by example.

Let's say you're looking out the kitchen window and there is a deer on the patio. (This happens frequently at our house.) You call your wife by shouting, "Come and wook out the lindow!" Or you come into the house, all hot and sweaty from raking leaves, and your spouse says, "Go and shake a tower!" Spoonerisms are linguistic flip-flops that turn "a well-oiled bicycle" into a "well-boiled icicle."

Why are these mixed-up words called Spoonerisms? They are named after the Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844-1930) who was Dean of New College in Oxford, England. Dr. Spooner lectured in history, philosophy, and religion. He was no featherbrain, but his mind was so nimble his tongue couldn't keep up. He had a tendency to get words and sounds mixed up, especially when he was agitated about something. He once scolded a student who "hissed my mystery lecture." (What he meant, of course, was "missed my history lecture.") Another time while officiating at a wedding, he prompted a hesitant bridegroom, "Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride."

Spoonerisms can happen to anyone. The radio announcer Harry Von Zell once introduced President Herbert Hoover as "Hoobert Heever." That blooper has become a legend in broadcasting history. Another radio announcer, Lowell Thomas, tripped over his tongue when he presented the British Prime Minister Sir Stafford Cripps as "Sir Stifford Craps."

Intentional Spoonerisms can be great word fun. In 1945, The Saturday Evening Post published the story of "The Shog and His Dadow" written spooneristically. It went like this…(try reading it aloud):

“A long time ago, a daggy shog was bossing a cardge over a pillmond, carrying a harge lunk of boast reef in his mippin drouth. He looked down and saw his own wace in the fawter, just like a remection in a flirror. Of course, he thought is was aduther nawg with a meece of peat bice as twig as his! So he mopped his own dreece of peat, and flitterally lew at his rewatron in the flecture. Naturally, he was quighty aquazed to find that he not only mawst the leat he had but that he narn dear liced his loft!”

I lope you hiked my little story. If your tongue is still twisted, try soaking it in jemon luice.


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Read another of Marshall Dean's stories at USADEEPSOUTH:
Rednecks


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