Written by Manya Pandey, a first-year undergraduate student.
Spoonerisms are a slip of tongue where the speaker accidentally switches up a few vowels, consonants, or sounds between two words of a sentence.
Like, if you say Runny Babbit instead of Bunny Rabbit!
These are named after William Archibald Spooner, an English professor who was very absent-minded and he mixed up his words so much that these phrases became known as spoonerisms.
These slips of the tongues, of course, existed before him, but he is the one who made them famous!
Usually, spoonerisms might just be mispronunciations but sometimes they are intentionally used as a clever wordplay for enhancing the dialogues and texts.
Here’s another example
Say your mother meant to scold you for having “very bad manners” but she mixed up in frustration and said, “you have very mad banners”. That’s a fun case of spoonerisms.
About William Spooner—the creator
Spoonerisms are named after an Oxford professor William Archibald Spooner, who habitually did this all the time.
He graduated from New College, Oxford (the oldest college in oxford university) and served the same institution for over sixty years from 1867 to 1924. He held multiple positions during his service including a lecturer, tutor, and dean, and lastly, he worked as a warden for 21 years.
During his years as a lecturer, he taught ancient history, divinity, and philosophy
He didn’t enjoy his reputation
Mr. Spooner had a reputation for mixing up words and it’s said he didn’t really like it even though some of his word plays were intentional.
He is most famous for muddling up “Conquering Kings” into “Kinkering Congs Their Titles” while reciting in the church!
No one really has a list of spoonerisms he used but most of them are credited to him including – “You have tasted two worms” meaning you have wasted two terms!
Is spoonerism related to phonological awareness?
Phonological awareness(PA) refers to the ability to recognize distinct patterns such as rhyme and repetition in spoken language. Children start developing Phonological awareness way before beginning a formal education and continue developing it up to third grade and ahead.
But sometimes children, as well as adults, have underdeveloped phonological abilities. In that case, Spoonerisms can be a way to check the extent of the problem.
Some more examples
- ‘Crooks and nannies’, for ‘nooks and crannies’
- ‘Flutterby’ for butterfly’
- I am tired of addressing ‘beery wenches’ instead of ‘weary benches’
- ‘The Lord is a shoving leopard’, instead of “The Lord is a loving shepherd’.
- ‘A blushing crow’, for a crushing blow
- ‘A well-boiled icicle’, for A well-oiled bicycle
- ‘Mad bunny’ for bad money
Can you think of some?