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A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis). It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency.[1] 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.


[edit] Examples

Most of the quotations attributed to Spooner are apocryphal; The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd edition, 1979) lists only one substantiated spoonerism: "The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer." Spooner claimed[1] that "The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take" (in reference to a hymn)[2] was his sole spoonerism. Most spoonerisms were probably never uttered by William Spooner himself, but rather made up by colleagues and students as a pastime.[3] Richard Lederer, calling "Kinkering Kongs their Titles Take" (with an alternate spelling) one of the "few" authenticated Spoonerisms, dates it to 1879, and gives nine examples "attributed to Spooner, most of them spuriously".[4] They are:

  • "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)[4]

[edit] Popular use

In modern terms, "spoonerism" generally refers to any changing of sounds in this manner.[original research?]

  • One example is "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" (variously attributed to W. C. Fields, Tom Waits, and most commonly Dorothy Parker), which not only shifts the beginning sounds of the word lobotomy, but the entire phrase "frontal lobotomy". The preceding phrase was further developed by Dean Martin, who said, "I would rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy."
  • Another modern use of spoonerisms is the children's book Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook, which is the last children's book by Shel Silverstein.
  • In a situation where profanity is unsuitable, a spoonerism is sometimes used to tone down the intensity of the expression or just to bend the rules. "Bass ackwards" (for ass backwards), "nucking futs" (for fucking nuts), and "shake a tit" (itself a risqué phrase, for take a shit) are all common examples of these kinds of spoonerisms.
  • In music, there have been several rock albums called Cunning Stunts. Another music album containing a spoonerism is Punk in Drublic by NOFX.
  • On his television series the British disc jockey and comedian Kenny Everett frequently portrayed a movie starlet of rather questionable morals, and over-familiarity with the casting couch called 'Cupid Stunt'.
  • The British radio announcer McDonald Hobley famously introduced the politician Sir Stafford Cripps as Sir 'Stifford Crapps'.
  • An out-take from the detective series Cagney and Lacey featured Sharon Gless referring to a 'comprinter pute-out'.

[edit] Politics

The Capitol Steps, a political satire group, use spoonerisms in a segment of their show called "Lirty Dies and Scicious Vandals".

In a deliberate spoonerism, Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson once stated, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling" (in reference to Norman Vincent Peale, who had opposed his candidacy).[5]

[edit] Twisted tales

Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle, the stage name of F. Chase Taylor, was the star of a 1930s radio program Stoopnagle and Budd who used spoonerisms in his show and in 1945 published a book, My Tale is Twisted, consisting of forty-four "spoonerized" versions of well-known children's stories. Subtitled "Wart Pun: Aysop's Feebles" and "Tart Pooh: Tairy and Other Fales", these included such tales as "Beeping Sleauty" for "Sleeping Beauty". The book was republished in 2001 by Stone and Scott Publishers as Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted.[6]

[edit] Kniferism and forkerism

As complements to spoonerism, Douglas Hofstadter used the nonce terms kniferism and forkerism to refer to interchanging the nuclei and codas, respectively, of syllables (spoonerism then being reserved for exchange of the onsets). Examples of so-called kniferisms include a British television newsreader once referring to the police at a crime scene removing a 'hypodeemic nerdle'; a television announcer once saying that "All the world was thrilled by the marriage of the Duck and Doochess of Windsor"[7] and that word regarding an impending presidential veto had come from "a high White Horse souse" (instead of "a high White House source")[8]; and during a live broadcast in 1931, radio presenter Harry von Zell accidentally mispronouncing US President Herbert Hoover's name, "Hoobert Heever."[7][9] Usage of these new terms has been limited; many sources count any syllable exchange as a spoonerism, regardless of location.[10][11]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b "Names make news". Time. 1928-10-29. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,928998,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  2. ^ Bartlett, John (1992) [1855]. Justin Kaplan. ed. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (16th ed.). Little, Brown and Company. pp. 533. ISBN 0316082775. 
  3. ^ Quinion, Michael (2007-07-28). "Spoonerism". World Wide Words. http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-spo4.htm. Retrieved on 2008-09-19. 
  4. ^ a b Lederer, Richard (1988). Get Thee to a Punnery. Charleston, South Carolina: Wyrick & Co.. pp. 137–148. 
  5. ^ Hoekstra, Dave. "A former president's gag order; Ford's symposium examines humor in the Oval Office", Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 28, 1986, pg. 22. Retrieved from Proquest Newspapers on Sept. 17, 2007.
  6. ^ "Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted, by Ken James". http://stoneandscott.com/stoopnagle.asp. Retrieved on 3 November 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "Phonemic and Analogic Lapses in Radio and Television Speech". American Speech (Duke University Press) 31 (4): 252-263. (Dec., 1956). http://www.jstor.org/pss/453412. Retrieved on 2009-2-18. 
  8. ^ "Recent titles". English Today (Cambridge University Press) 9 (1): 56-60. Jan 1993. doi:doi:10.1017/S0266078400006982. http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=2250648. Retrieved on 2009-2-18. 
  9. ^ "snopes.com: Harry von Zell and Hoobert Heever". http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/radio/vonzell.asp. Retrieved on 2 Feb 2009. 
  10. ^ "spoonerism definition". http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spoonerism. Retrieved on 2 Feb 2009. 
  11. ^ "spoonerism: Definition from Answers.com". http://www.answers.com/topic/spoonerism. Retrieved on 2 Feb 2009. 

[edit] External links

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