What Spoonerisms Are, and Why They’re So Delightful

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I love the English language–love it.

Sure, I’ve taken five years of Latin. Sure, I’m dabbling in other languages right now. Sure, I want to  be fluent someday in Spanish, French, Italian, and probably Chinese.

But English is my first love. I adore it. I always will.

That being said, I also love (in certain cases) to see the English language mangled. Sometimes, it hurts my heart and makes my skin crawl, but sometimes, it’s just downright hilarious.

Spoonerisms, for instance–hilarious.

What Spoonerisms Are

You’ve heard a spoonerism before. You’ve probably said a spoonerism before.

Spoonerisms are the proud citizens of awkward conversations, uncomfortable speeches, and hilarious stories. According to Wikipedia (so it has to be true), they are named after William Archibald Spooner, an ordained minister who was famous for his soon-to-be-called “spoonerisms.”

But what are they?

Merriam-Webster defines a spoonerism as “a humorous mistake in which a speaker switches the first sounds of two or more words.”

Humorous is right.

For example, if I were trying to say, “I have a black cat,” but I get tongue-tied and flustered (because I’m talking to a celebrity or a new boss or a really cool person), I might accidentally say, “I have a cack blat.”

Which is both nonsense and a spoonerism. And hilarious.

(On a side note, I’m not sure if this can be a verb, but if it could, it would be “spoonerize,” which I just love.)

Why They’re So Delightful

Do I really have to explain this? Let’s just look at a couple of examples, allegedly from our very own William Archibald Spooner (once again taken from Wikipedia):

“The Lord is a shoving leopard.”

“Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?”

“Three cheers for our queer old dean!”

Need I go on?

Reverend Spooner isn’t the only one capable of spoonerizing. It could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

“This race is a bail-knighter!”

“Seat knocks!”

“Don’t cross the light wine.”

“You’re in trig bubble.”

I’ve heard it done with names before, too:

“Sheen and Dairy.”

“Fat and Manny.”

“Neter and Pantsy.”

See? Aren’t they fun?

Shel Silverstein filled a whole book with spoonerized poetry. It’s called Runny Babbit, and it is worth spending money on. I spent my entire childhood singing “Dankee Yoodle,” thanks to this book.

Go buy it. Read some spoonerisms. Say some spoonerisms. Live big. Laugh hard. Die happy.

I’m full of wisdom, by the way. People should listen to me more.

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