Spoonerism

Definition & Examples of Spoonerism

Spoonerism is an error in speech characterized by a transposition of initial corresponding consonantsOpens in new window, vowelsOpens in new window, or morphemesOpens in new window sounds of two or more words. Thus, Spooner had said “you hissed my mystery lecture” whereas he intended to say, “you missed my history lecture”.

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Spoonerism: The term spoonerism was named after Rev. William Archibald Spooner.

Spooner — The term spoonerism was named after Rev. William Archibald SpoonerOpens in new window, the then British Reverend and Warden of New College, Oxford, who lived between 1844 – 1930. Spooner happened to be a nervous man, and was frequently susceptible to getting his tongue tangled up, making ridiculous blunders in his attempt to conduct public speaking. He often committed terrible blunders; for instance; during one of various episodes he would say “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” (rather than “dear old queen,” which is a reference to Queen VictoriaOpens in new window), and “Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet.” (“Someone is occupying my pew. Please show me to another seat.”) By 1921, his name was well established; and inspired recognition of the term Spoonerism up to this present period.

Notable Examples — Examples of Spooner’s Spoonerism and other Spoonerisms include:

  • “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” (rather than “dear old queen,” which is a reference to Queen Victoria)
  • “Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?” (as opposed to “customary to kiss”)
  • “The Lord is a shoving leopard.” (instead of “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.” (“Someone is occupying my pew. Please 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.” (“You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train.”)

Subsequent Spoonerisms — Other Ridiculous Spoonerism includes:

Some more Ridiculous — Spoonerisms include:

  • “Blow your nose”; now becomes spoonerism of “know your blows”
  • “Ease my tears”; now becomes spoonerism of “tease my ears”
  • “You have very bad manners” becomes “you have very mad banners”
  • “Pack of lies”; now becomes spoonerism for “lack of pies”
  • “Healing the sick”; now becomes spoonerism of “Sealing the hick”
  • “So help me God”; would become “Go help me sod”
  • “I’m a stamp dealer”; would become “I’m a damp stealer”
  • “I’m out of the shower”; would become “I’m shout of the hour”
  • “I must send the mail”; now becomes “I must mend the sail”
  • “My lips are zipped”; now becomes “my zips are lipped”
  • “Right in your face”; now becomes “fight in your race”
Important Hint! 

While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words.

Further Readings:
Wikipedia | SpoonerismOpens in new window