Spoonerisms

Most rutton anyone?

One Christmas Day my grandmother Miemie McGregor looked around the crowded dining table and in her earnest and kindly way asked, "Would anyone like some more most rutton?"

For a moment she looked perplexed at the loots of hafter which greeted her question, then she lapsed into a figgle of gits as she realised what she had said.

Granny had just committed an error of speech called a "spoonerism" after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, an Oxford University Don who, deservedly or not, gained the reputation of switching consonants, vowels or morphemes, as in the mistake my Gran made that Christmas Day.

It is a common form of speech error, now very often deliberately made for humorous effect.

The Reverend Spooner's alleged errors of speech have been the stuff of stories and jokes for years. He himself denied that he was prone to such mistakes, but did admit to having once announced a hymn as "Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take."

Another gaff attributed to him which might though be apocryphal, is the call for "three cheers for our queer old dean", by which was meant "our dear old Queen (Victoria)".

The Rev Dr Spooner stayed at New College for more than 60 years in carious vapacities, and was known for making other speech mistakes, such as inviting a man to a function to welcome a new archaeology fellow. The man said "But I am the new archaeology fellow", to which Spooner is alleged to have replied, "Never mind, come all the same."

Dr Spooner was born in 1844 and died in August 1930, a man respected for his "scholarship, devotion to duty, and wisdom" even though his fame is based more on his lapses of speech.

Some of the more famous of these attributed to him, though they might have originated from his students, are:

  • "The Lord is a shoving leopard"

  • "a half-warmed fish"

  • "Is the bean dizzy?"

Of course, generations of schoolboys have giggled over the spoonerisation (to coin a phrase) of the title of Charles Dickens' famous novel, A Sale of Two Titties, not to mention the "cunning stunts" of the can-can dancers (or acrobats, depending on who's telling it)..

Indeed the spoonerism has been used to disguise risqué statements like "he's not a pheasant plucker," or "she showed me her tool kits."

Spoonerisms have become so popular there is even a FaceBook page for them.

The inventor of Magnetic Poetry, Dave Kapell on his blog Dave's Blog (http://magpo.blogs.com/davesblog/2009/07/naughty-spoonerisms.html) shares his grandmother's favourite poem containing spoonerisms:

"I'm not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig plucker's son,
But I'll pluck your figs
'Til the fig plucker comes."

Some spoonersisms have entered English as almost accepted phrases, like "one swell foop."

A graffito on a wall in Johannesburg had this rather extended pun/spoonerism, which made sense in the rather puritanical atmosphere of 1970s South Africa: "People in grass houses shouldn't get stoned."

Then there are the more commonplace ones like "wave the sails" and "Britannia waives the rules."

Maybe Brangeliina should have thought twice about calling their child Shiloh Pitt, though.

And if you like this Hub you can always make a comprinter putout of it to hit the cooking fat with.

Or you could just Friar Tuck.

My grandmother Miemie McGregor
My grandmother Miemie McGregor
Contemporary cartoon of Spooner
Contemporary cartoon of Spooner

Reverend William Archibald Spooner

The Reverend Spooner's alleged errors of speech have been the stuff of stories and jokes for years. He himself denied that he was prone to such mistakes, but did admit to having once announced a hymn as "Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take."

Another gaff attributed to him which might though be apocryphal, is the call for "three cheers for our queer old dean", by which was meant "our dear old Queen (Victoria)".

The Rev Dr Spooner stayed at New College for more than 60 years in carious vapacities, and was known for making other speech mistakes, such as inviting a man to a function to welcome a new archaeology fellow. The man said "But I am the new archaeology fellow", to which Spooner is alleged to have replied, "Never mind, come all the same."

Dr Spooner was born in 1844 and died in August 1930, a man respected for his "scholarship, devotion to duty, and wisdom" even though his fame is based more on his lapses of speech.

Some of the more famous of these attributed to him, though they might have originated from his students, are:

  • "The Lord is a shoving leopard"

  • "a half-warmed fish"

  • "Is the bean dizzy?"

Of course, generations of schoolboys have giggled over the spoonerisation (to coin a phrase) of the title of Charles Dickens' famous novel, A Sale of Two Titties, not to mention the "cunning stunts" of the can-can dancers (or acrobats, depending on who's telling it)..

Indeed the spoonerism has been used to disguise risqué statements like "he's not a pheasant plucker," or "she showed me her tool kits."

Spoonerisms have become so popular there is even a FaceBook page for them.

The inventor of Magnetic Poetry, Dave Kapell on his blog Dave's Blog (http://magpo.blogs.com/davesblog/2009/07/naughty-spoonerisms.html) shares his grandmother's favourite poem containing spoonerisms:

"I'm not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig plucker's son,
But I'll pluck your figs
'Til the fig plucker comes."

Some spoonersisms have entered English as almost accepted phrases, like "one swell foop."

A graffito on a wall in Johannesburg had this rather extended pun/spoonerism, which made sense in the rather puritanical atmosphere of 1970s South Africa: "People in grass houses shouldn't get stoned."

Then there are the more commonplace ones like "wave the sails" and "Britannia waives the rules."

Maybe Brangeliina should have thought twice about calling their child Shiloh Pitt, though.

And if you like this Hub you can always make a comprinter putout of it to hit the cooking fat with.

Or you could just Friar Tuck.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2009

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Comments 35 comments

Lucey Knight profile image

Lucey Knight 7 years ago from North Richland Hills, Texas

Good hub. Very well written.


judydianne profile image

judydianne 7 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

That was a great hub! I seem to speak in spoonerisms sometimes and my kids say, "Oh, we just need a Mom translator."


Russ Baleson profile image

Russ Baleson 7 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

Nice one Tony, thanks, it made me smile. I'm amazed at how family spoonerisms become long-lasting pet phrases. One of ours is, "Don't be such a Solly!" (When Leyla was three she called me a Solly Sillage).


reviyve profile image

reviyve 7 years ago from New York

interesting hub this one. I couldn't have thought of anything as creative!


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

I'm guilty of a spoonerism...Bringing some refreshments to work one morning I announced in a loud voice " I've got drolls and rollnuts !! " Even the surly union rep laughed at that...Thanks for another interesting Hub, Tony...Larry


EverythingMouse profile image

EverythingMouse 7 years ago

This one made me smile!


bingskee profile image

bingskee 7 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

very new to me - spoonerism. interesting information.


Treasured Pasts profile image

Treasured Pasts 7 years ago from Commerce, Texas

I was speechless. My tangue got all toungled and my turds got wisted. Great hub! We saw a master of this named Zilch the Tory Steller at the Ren festival near Dallas.


Kitchen_Witch profile image

Kitchen_Witch 7 years ago from The Green Studio of Musings

Ha ha aha hahahahahah Gamergirl always needs to translate for me.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

A fun read, Tony. Thanks.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

I enjoyed learning about spoonerisms. Thank you for such a fun and well research read! Can't think of a spoonerism to end with, so I'll just say "Dell won!" MM


Anthony James Barnett - author 7 years ago

Funny stuff, Tony. I think we've all enjoyed such comedy shows in the past.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

I had run fighting this! Thanks for your comments, they are truly appreciated.

Love and peace

Tony


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

You ought to check out the Internet for Ronnie Barker, a British comedian, now sadly passed, who was the master of spoonerisms, both he and his comedy partner Ronnie Corbett, who were know together as the 2 Ronnie's.


Peter Kirstein 7 years ago

Had a good chuckle, thanks Tony. Greetings to you and the whole fam damily!


Bail Up ! profile image

Bail Up ! 6 years ago

This was most excellent. Very smucking fart! Thanks for the laugh.


brightforyou profile image

brightforyou 6 years ago from Florida

Mot do you wean? A Gritish bal mike lyself nould wever use Spoonerisms ~ actually I didn't realize they were called Spoonerisms, thanks for the information and funny hub!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Well done, Tony! Much I hadn't heard before. A particular surprise were the "naughty" examples, which I had not come across before. Bravo!


missmaudie profile image

missmaudie 6 years ago from Brittany, France

Very funny! We lived next to the beach when I was a child and always talked of making cand sastles and leaving the car in the par cark. In fact you can get so used to saying things this way you forget you're doing it.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Maudie - indeed one can forget and it can get one into a bit of trouble someetimes!

Thanks everyone for the reads and the comments. Appreciated

Love and peace

Tony


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Oh Tony. Can't believe I haven't noticed this one before. My sides hurt from laughing. One of my friends was fed up with gardening one day and told me "So, there I was with my povel and shick." Even the word spoonerism makes me laugh. Poor man.! Thanks for making my day.

peace, as always.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Dim - thanks, glad you had fun with this one! Love the "povel and shick" one - it's priceless!

Love and peace

Tony


wilbury steve profile image

wilbury steve 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

Great hub Tony! I've always enjoyed playing with words. If you're gardening & make a sloping cut, in the Rev spooner's world it becomes a 'coping slut'!


mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 6 years ago

My earliest spoonerisms were gutting the shate so that the dog wouldn't escape and bopping drombs (doesn't sound nearly so dangerous that way). I've since refined the art through plenty of practice.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Christine - thanks for the visit and the comment. Bopping drombs actually sounds quite cool!

Thanks again.

Love and peace

Tony


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

Wonderful, God does have a sense of humor and I say he and Jesus want us all to laugh more and smile constantly. Thanks for delivering on a light hearted and wonderful uplifting smile! Peace :)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Katie - indeed laughter is a great uplifter of the spirit! I love a good laugh and plays on words can be very funny.

Exercising the smile muscles is very good for the health!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


neeleshkulkarni profile image

neeleshkulkarni 5 years ago from new delhi

you have a werrific tit


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Neelesh - sorry I didn't notice this comment before! Thanks so much and just love that spoonerism!

Love and peace

Tony


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I've been guilty of doing that on occasion (by mistake) and it is always good for a laugh. Did not realize that it was called a spoonerism. Enjoyed this hub. Thanks! Gets a useful and funny rating.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - they are usually funniest when they just happen like that! Thanks bopping sty - I appreciate it.

Love and peace

Tony


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago

Hi Tony:

I've just finished reading your article and have linked a piece I've just finished called A Tongue Twister Is More Than Just A Laughing Matter. Your fun loving approach to language is the kind of spirit that should inspire all teachers - but particular those who teach English. I'm sure my article is improved by the link - thanks.

Sembj


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sembj - thanks for the kind words, I appreciate them very much.

Thanks for the link. I'm adding a link here to your's!

Love and peace

Tony


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago

Tony - thanks brother. As ever, Sem


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago from Cambridgeshire, England

Great hub reminds me of when I was at college and I was hissing all my mystery lessons. Voted up FUI

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