Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spoonerisms & mixed-up words

Do you ever mix up your words? I think we probably all have at one time or another. A few people in my life are notorious for this. One of them, on Monday, said, “I could have sworn I made a whole cube of ice trays!”

That got a good chuckle out of me and got me to thinking about other memorable word mix-ups. Years ago I learned about something called “Spoonerisms” in Bill Bryson’s “The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way.”

According to Wikipedia, a Spoonerism is “an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis). It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency.”

My husband’s word mix-up on Monday wasn’t exactly a Spoonerism by this definition, I suppose. But it was still funny. Wikipedia gives some funny examples of Spoonerisms that are often attributed to Spooner himself:

· "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (dear old queen, referring to Queen Victoria)

· "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" (customary to kiss)

· "The Lord is a shoving leopard." (a loving shepherd)

· "A blushing crow." (crushing blow)

· "A well-boiled icicle" (well-oiled bicycle)

· "You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle." (lighting a fire)

· "Is the bean dizzy?" (dean busy)

· "Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (occupying my me to another seat)

· "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain." (missed...history, wasted...term, down train)

Here are some of my favorite word mix-ups and Spoonerisms. (Names left off to protect the innocent, aka my family and co-workers.)

• Coff of cuppee (cup of coffee)

• Flotting swies (swatting flies)

• Look how horsey those happies are (happy, horses)

• Kapper Troothy (Trooper Kathy)

• Beth & Setsy (Seth & Betsy)

• Oasin ratemeal cookies (oatmeal raisin)

• Friendler usey (user friendly)

Some of these happened years ago and I still giggle every time I think about them. I have a couple other favorites, but I cannot share them here because the mixed-up letters resulted in profanity, and this is a family paper.

I don’t know why I am so amused by Spoonerisms and word mix-ups, but I am. It is funny how our brains and our mouths sometimes don’t work together very well.

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