Spoonerism

   The Reverend William A. Spooner (1844-1930), an Anglican clergyman, had a habit of transposing the initial sounds of words, forming a ludicrous combination. Whether his slips of tongue were accidental or simply the result of absentmindedness has never been determined. His position in life as dean and later warden of New College, Oxford, would seem to have called for simple and direct dialogue with no tongue twisters. Spooner's students so enjoyed hearing his transposition of the initial sounds of words that they made up some combinations themselves for their own amusement—for example, "Is the bean dizzy?" for "Is the dean busy?"—but they could never surpass those attributed to their master. When he preached, he carried with him his lapses of speech. On one occasion he said to a person who had come to pray, "Aren't you occupewing the wrong pie?" for "occupying the wrong pew." When the startled parishioner looked at him ungraspingly, he continued with, "Were you sewn into this sheet?" for "shown into this seat." Possibly the funniest mistake of his twisted tongue was at the end of a wedding ceremony when the bashful groom simply stood there. Spooner intoned, "It's kisstomary to cuss the bride."
   The technical name for this form of twisting words is metathesis, but better known is the nontechnical name spoonerism. Some of Spooner's phrases that are used as examples are "a wellboiled icicle" for "a well-oiled bicycle"; "our shoving leopard" for "our loving shepherd"; "a half-warmed fish" for "a half-formed wish." One of his most repeated transpositions is "Kinquering congs their titles take" for "Conquering kings their titles take." And he is supposed to have made a toast to the dear old queen by saying, "Let us now drink to the queer old dean."
   Spooner closed his academic life in an appropriate style. When, because of age, he was forced into retirement, he remarked, "It came as a blushing crow," instead of a "crushing blow."

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • spoonerism — (n.) 1900, but perhaps as early as 1885, involuntary transposition of sounds in two or more words (Cf. a well boiled icicle for a well oiled bicycle; scoop of boy trouts for troop of Boy Scouts ), in reference to the Rev. William A. Spooner (1844 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Spoonerism — The Revd W. A. Spooner (1844–1930), Dean and Warden of New College, Oxford, has given his name to this most endearing form of linguistic error involving the transposition of letters, although those commonly attributed to him are likely to be… …   Modern English usage

  • spoonerism — ► NOUN ▪ an error in speech in which the initial sounds or letters of two or more words are accidentally transposed, often to humorous effect, as in you have hissed the mystery lectures. ORIGIN named after the English scholar Revd W. A. Spooner… …   English terms dictionary

  • spoonerism — [spo͞o′nər iz΄əm] n. [after Rev. W. A. Spooner (1844 1930), of New College, Oxford, famous for such slips] an unintentional interchange of sounds, usually initial sounds, in two or more words (Ex.: “a well boiled icicle” for “a well oiled… …   English World dictionary

  • Spoonerism — 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,… …   Wikipedia

  • spoonerism — UK [ˈspuːnəˌrɪz(ə)m] / US [ˈspunərˌɪzəm] noun [countable] Word forms spoonerism : singular spoonerism plural spoonerisms a mistake in speaking in which someone pronounces some sounds or parts of words in the wrong order and makes a funny change… …   English dictionary

  • spoonerism — noun /ˈspuːnərɪzəm/ A play on words on a phrase in which the initial (usually consonantal) sounds of two or more of the main words are transposed. The spoonerism The queer old dean (instead of the dear old Queen ) is attributed to Rev. Spooner …   Wiktionary

  • spoonerism — [19] The term spoonerism commemorates the name of the Reverend William Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who reputedly was in the habit of producing utterances with the initial letters of words reversed, often to comic effect… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • spoonerism — [[t]spu͟ːnərɪzəm[/t]] spoonerisms N COUNT A spoonerism is a mistake made by a speaker in which the first sounds of two words are changed over, often with a humorous result, for example when someone says wrong load instead of long road …   English dictionary

  • spoonerism — [19] The term spoonerism commemorates the name of the Reverend William Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who reputedly was in the habit of producing utterances with the initial letters of words reversed, often to comic effect… …   Word origins

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