111 - Spoonerisms

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”         ¹

The students in China, and indeed most EAL students, find the idea of a Spoonerism quite difficult, and though I read that Japanese like it, Chinese don’t, which is a shame as their language lends itself to it extremely. Here, then...

Definition and background: the Reverend Spooner (William Archibald) was Warden at New College Oxford - that’s t’other side of the Camera from Brasenose, past the Bridge of Sighs (some Oxbridge argument tidied up below)                                                                                                   ²

Spooner, who I say liked his evening sherry, had the delightful habit of swapping leading letters of adjacent words. The one I first heard, probably from Father, describes him standing to toast the Queen (Victoria) but toasting the queer old Dean instead. He has a number of famous quotes, though one suspects that while they’re attributed to the old codger, they were actually contrived by the fellowship (and mostly the undergraduates). My favourites include:                                   ³

"A well-boiled icicle”
 "You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle.”
"Is the bean dizzy?”

"Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (This would be in Chapel)
"You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain."  (I believe this to be an external contribution, so to speak).

to these we might add a half-formed wish,    we’ll have the hags flung out;    nosy little cook,         sons of toil


For me, while the honestly accidental Spoonerism complies with the Woonerism Spebsite (it just happens), the best ones produce proper words. The Woonerism Spebsite is weak in comparison to its Googled neighbours, permitting far too many letter swaps without the corresponding alternative message.
Some of these belong within the family and I have long referred to them as
tips of the slung. I have always referred to a Math Bat to keep the shower room floor less wet. My M-i-L frequently had a peeping slug upon her lap. Our cats always used flat caps and our Mini often had a bad flattery. Butterflies always fluttered by. Poses were nicked, and one still has many mad banners; one banged one’s bunny phone (so to speak); I was not surprised to find these among those listed on the front page of fun-with-words spoonerisms page. And then more on the next page I looked at.


Taken from there:

•  Mean as custard                     (Keen as mustard)
•  Plaster man                             (Master plan)
•  Pleating and humming            (Heating and plumbing)
•  Trim your snow tail                 (Trim your toe nails)
•  Trail snacks                            (Snail tracks)
•  Sale of two titties                    (Tale of two cities)
•  Rental Deceptionist                (Dental Receptionist)
•  Flock of bats                           (Block of flats)
•  Chewing the doors                 (Doing the chores)

Hear are some you could here in church); our shoving leopard, Soap in your hole; sealing the hick; bedding wells, but not go help me sod

These are more secular: 
know your blows; go and shake a tower;   tease my ears;   lack of pies;   it's roaring with pain;
pit nicking;      bowel feast;     I'm a damp stealer;   hypodeemic nurdle;    wave the sails; 
chipping the flannel on TV; mad bunny; I'm shout of the hour; lead of spite; this is the pun fart; 
I must mend the sail; cop porn; it crawls through the fax;  my zips are lipped;  would you like a nasal hut?; eye ball;  fight in your race;  ready as a stock;   no tails;  hiss and lear;  soul of ballad;

With which sense do you detect the birds in the trees? Am I a bird-watcher?                                                                          


The hypodemic nerdle is a kniferism, where whole syllables are swapped; this was said by a Brit newsreader, and in the same medium we had announced the marriage of the Duck and Doochess of Windsor. Mind, we’ve apparently heard the odd twenty-one son galoot, too. For some, kniferisms belong as a subset of spoonerisms.

Don’t confuse Spoonerisms with malapropisms (or proper mal-isms), which is when you use the wrong word entirely (all my Chinese, for example). Literary and literate students should research Mrs Malaprop and Dogberry.                                                               ⁶


Weanmile, the wady life is towns dares totching the welly; I can hear a shady louting so it’s drobbly prama. We’ve dad winner (that’s why he’s upstairs) though I tossed the loss for who does the washing up. I’d getter bow and do it.

DJS 20130525



1 Dorothy Parker, a funny lady eventually on the Hollywood blacklist for socialist (‘communist’) leanings but IMHO simply intelligently aware and prepared to do something. Probably the originator of the bottle in front of her, she had a drink problem. Other good quotes attributed to her:
You can drag a horticulture but you can’t make her think”;
“It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.” “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone”   “This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”;
On suicide: “Razors pain you; rivers are damp; acids stain you; and drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; nooses give; gas smells awful; you might as well live.”
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” 
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” 
“If I had any decency, I'd be dead. Most of my friends are.”

2 Venice, right; Oxford (above, road, called Hertford Bridge); Cambridge (below & left, river, St John’s). Pic of New itself, all from Wikipedia.

Each of these is called the Bridge of Sighs.

3 A well-oiled bicycle; lighting a fire;  Dean busy; [You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train]; A half-formed wish;  we’ll have the flags hung out; cosy little nook, tons of soil

4 ‘Religious’: our loving shepherd,; Hope in your soul; healing the sick; wedding bells; so help me God.

Secular:  blow your nose; go and take a shower; ease my tears; pack of lies; it's pouring with rain; nit picking; foul beast; I'm a stamp dealer; hypodermic needle; save the whales; flipping the channel on TV; bad money; I'm out of the shower; speed of light; this is the fun part; I must send the mail; popcorn; it falls through the cracks; my lips are zipped; would you like a hazel nut?; bye all;  right in your face;  steady as a rock;  toe nails;  listen here;  bowl of salad.  

If you like these, you might also like My Tale is Twisted, subtitled Wart Pun: Aysop's Feebles and Tart Pooh: Tairy and Other Fales, republished in 2001 by Stone and Scott Publishers as Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted.

5 You might look, but I smell. Frequently, but that’s a whack of lashing. No. I’m a word-botcher.

6 Mrs Malaprop, The Rivals, Sheridan 1775, from Mal a propos, inappropriate. Dogberry, Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing, ~1599. Odd then that Sheridan’s term overtook Spokeshare’s. Pr’aps it was Muggins’ turn?


Top Picture from Fine Art America, by Grainger, http://fineartamerica.com/featured/william-archibald-spooner-granger.html




© David Scoins 2017