A spoonerism is a phrase generated by the (usually unintentional) transposition of sounds between words. While this type of speech error has undoubtedly been occurring for much longer than a century, our word for them came from William A. Spooner (1844–1930), who had a reputation for these tips of the slung.

I’ve been a spoonerist for as long as I can remember. (I’m a spooner, too, as The Professor will attest…but I digress.) In doing a little reading on spoonerisms, I was hoping to find out that they were an indication of high intelligence, good breeding, or at the very least low cholesterol. But alas. No one seems to think so.

In the last few days, I’ve jotted down four spoonerisms that I generated unintentionally. There are more where these came from, because I do this fairly frequently.

It’s only a few hundred yards as the clow fries. (clow rhymes with sew)
Jat & Panet (our best friends)
Is that program houd closted? (or is it on your computer)
Crau pryler (crau rhymes with chow—person who steals things from vehicles)

Spoonerisms are also used intentionally for comic effect. My favorite intentional spoonerism of all time is attributed to various people, of whom I find Dorothy Parker to be the most credible: “I’d rather have a bottle in fronta me than a frontal lobotomy!”

About Verla

Wordfreak. Linguist. WA State licensed P.I. #3377. Principal, Viera Investigations. Spanish-English interpreter. Sole proprietor, Encanto Language Services. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, PacNWer by choice. Jewelry artist, Different Drummer Designs. Owner, world’s most gigantic dachshund. Driver, world’s almost smallest car. Chocoholic. Lover of things purple.
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