A pianist was playing at a function in a private home and really needed a bathroom break. One of the guests asked him about the piece he had just played and instead of replying "this is a very difficult piece to play", he said, "This is a very difficult place to pee."
I have always been enamored of spoonerisms, ever since my father told me years ago that a fragile package should be marked CANDLE WITH HAIR. Such nonsense cried out to be appropriately illustrated, so I've posted a collection of spoonerism cartoons on my blog. They really tickle my bunny phone!
One common UK spoonerism is for parents 'Dum(b) and Mad' instead of Mum and Dad. In my wife's case this didn't work. After being widowed my wife's mother remarried, and her husband was always called by his name, rather than 'Dad'. Then I worked out that this also worked as a spoonerism: 'Mum and Dennis'.
My mother used the deliberate spoonerism "thud and blunder" (from "blood and thunder") to describe music that displeased.
I have a friend who was recently widowed and very nervous about having to give the speech, at her daughter's wedding, in lieu of her late husband. She completed the task beautifully, without too many tears, but when it came to the point of proposing the toast to the bride and groom... Her lovely daughter Judy had just married a fine young man Bruce -- which came out as a resounding -- "To Juice and Broody". We all collapsed in rather hysterical tears!
-Alison Janette Emmerson
My all-time favorite: From a breathlessly excited radio broadcaster announcing the disembarking of the Royal Windsors in New York, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Duck and Doochess of Windsor!"
One University of Washington English Professor in particular was a common creator of spoonerisms. He once said he taught a class on Cake and Bleats (Blake and Keats). He was known to take a fresh of breath air. His best occurred in a Shakespeare class after a rousing argument of what the bard meant. He brought the class together by saying, "Well, class, let's let Speakspeare shake for himself." It took a while for the class to stop laughing.
-Lee Anne Bowie
A colleague who taught American Literature told me that for years he dreaded introducing Huckleberry Finn for fear he would spoonerize the title. Sure enough, one day he did.
This brought immediately to my mind my eighth standard classmate spoonerizing the title, 'Puck and the Fairy', of an extract from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer's Night Dream', when he was asked to recite it to the class. Nervous adolescent laughter followed, in which the teacher very sportingly joined in.
When I first moved to the small (then) town of Sumner, WA before the time of digital catalogues in libraries, I enquired about a book called Old Forts of the Far West (Herbert M Hart) and, of course, spoonered those two "F" words. The kindly little old lady at the desk issued me a library card anyway and found me the book.
I love spoonerisms and my brother does it all the time. He said my cat comes and goes through a flat cap and goes to the vet's in a bat casket!
As a trainee surgeon, I had an occasion to enquire about the nature of his job to a man who had a hand injury. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a spoonerism when he meant to say he was a "pheasant plucker".
We knew it was time to go home from the party when we spoonerized our order for "Freddy Fudpuckers". (That was back in the early, devil-may-care days of my youth in the 1980s.)
A couple of years ago, syndicated crossword puzzle constructionist, Merl Reagle, devised one of his Sunday puzzles to contain eight spoonerisms as answers. Among the most memorable: "HANG YOUR BED AGAINST THE WALL" (clue: Murphy's brainstorm); "BUNNY PHONE" (clue: Easter egg hotline); "STOCKY HICKS" (clue: Heavyset hayseeds?) and "I COULD BITE A ROOK" (clue: Frustrated chess player's cry?).
Working as an English teacher for adults in southern Germany, it is only through you and the cryptic crosswords from a couple of English newspapers every day that I manage to maintain a semblance of my native language at a more than dumbed-down level (thank heavens for the Internet). It was therefore interesting to see today's word which is a nice intersection of the two. Spoonerisms are a favourite tool in the cryptic crossword setter's repertoire, and though purists groan when they see them (and many are groan-worthy), I believe they add depth and humour to the puzzle. You will no doubt be inundated with many examples but here are two from last week.
Spooner's to kill writer and collect $200! (4,2) Pass go. (from gas Poe)
Bread - spy end of loaf for Spooner. (9). Wholemeal. (from mole heel)
I was dining with my girlfriend and her family in the early 1970s. The family included her three intellectual brothers. She was always in competition with them, trying to show that she had a brain, herself. One of the brothers was going on about this and that, and he inadvertently made a spoonerism. My girlfriend, eager to show that she recognized his blunder, blurted out proudly, "A Roonerspism!" After the laughter, the discussion turned to whether she had created a double, reverse, negative, additive, subtractive, or even an anti-spoonerism.
The best use of spoonerisms occurred in the British parliament. The speaker of one party complimented one of the other saying "I yield to the gentleman as a 'shining wit'." And then apologized for making a spoonerism.
-Martin Litke, MD
When I was young, my grandfather always called me a smart feller if I said something clever.
My dad Dennis was a typesetter (on a linotype) and worked in the newspaper industry for over 40 years. He loved wordplay, especially spoonerisms. His favourite: Spoonerising the name of the "Dr. No" actress, Ursula Andress.
The eminent professor, Larzer Ziff, once addressed a poetry class this way: "Today we're going to talk about piss and stretch...I mean stretch and pitch...damn, I mean pitch and stress."
My brain must have 'gone walkabout' when I came out with this one. I said, "My 'two-piece knee shirt', meaning 'My Snoopy t-shirt'."
When I was a student in dental school, we had a daylong seminar on thumb sucking. Several of the speakers had slips of the tongue and said "sum thucking" instead. When I rose to speak I said: "Isn't it good that today's seminar was not called Finger Sucking?"
Try to solve these clues to words or phrases which can be turned into other words or phrases by using spoonerisms.
Example: Change a comfortable corner into an inquisitive chef. Answer: cosy nook - nosy cook.
1. Change impolite behaviour into insane pieces of cloth bearing slogans.
2. Change a stringed instrument into a noisy puppy.
3. Change a French writer into a decorative part of a wall.
Answer: 1. bad manners - mad banners. 2. Welsh harp - harsh whelp. 3. Daudet - dado.
The same word-play existed in French hundreds of years before, apparently invented by Fran?ois Rabelais in 1532 with his Pantagruel. Other well-known-in-English authors also used them: D'Estienne Tabourot (1547-1590) and Honor? de Balzac (1799-1850).
-J. Michael Keating
A recent review of a local production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), a wild, bawdy ride through the entire oeuvre in 97 minutes, described it as "no bards wholed".
I do flannel chipping watching TV.
While serving as a disc jockey on the local radio station during my high school career I read an ad for IDEAL BREAD. The line was supposed to be, "To find the Best in Bread, just look for the IDEAL sign." I leave the spoonerism to your imagination. I soon found out the definition of spoonerism.
I was 18, and in my first job as a radio announcer in British Guiana. We were broadcasting the West Indies cricket match, and in between innings it was my job to read commercial copy. I was quite pleased with my reading of the copy for a "spot" for Barclays Bank; unfortunately, in my self-congratulation I lost focus and ended up the spot triumphantly with "and so, Bark at Bankleys!"
What we in radio called bloopers. While interviewing Rocky Marciano, I ended a question by saying, "Isn't that rock, rightie?"
A radio announcer was reported to have said "The visiting dignitary was presented with a 21-son galoot."
My father, a newspaper editor, liked to tell about the time he was speaking to a newspaper editors' conference. It was being held at a hotel in Palo Alto, California, since closed, called Rickey's Hyatt House. He started his speech by welcoming the gathered crowd to "Hickey's Riot House". Everyone laughed and thought he was telling a joke, but it was a verbal slip. Of course, he let everyone believe it was intentional.
My favorite is from my son, ordering at a diner: "A chilled greese sandwich, please."
-Dr Edward C Greer
The occasion: meeting my future in-laws for the first time. We were sitting around the kitchen table nervously chatting about this and that when my fiancee mentioned that I liked to bake bread. "He's the best bread baker I've ever known" came out as "He's the best bed breaker I've ever known." She turned bright red, I stared into my coffee cup and (fortunately) her parents burst out laughing after a brief pause.
My mother once said (after her second glass of sherry), "After Papa has retired we're going to fix up the world and take a trip around the house."
My favorite spoonerism came from a small town Texas woman who had become frustrated while looking for new car tires because she couldn't find what she needed. She said, "I looked in every crook and nanny in town."
A spoonerism of "dish washer" would be appropriate if that were what you were stuck with as your job, don't you think?
A young man at the railroad ticket counter, distracted by the lovely and buxom ticket agent, asked "I'd like to have two pickets to Titsburgh." This one can do double duty as a Freudian slip.
I have an aunt who taught high school reported that all day she had been saying "the sport of pain" when she meant "the port of Spain".
Some transpositions operate on a single word: e.g. "bankrupt" yields "bunkrapt" (credulous response to political or religious oratory), and "dyslexia" yields "dylsexia" (meaning unclear). These are smaller adjustments than the original spoonerisms, so maybe we should call them "teaspoonerisms".
When an important visitor asked a friend of mine the names of her two rabbits, her children turned to stare in astonishment when they heard her reply, 'John and Mary'. The animals in question were called Buck and Flo: she could not trust herself to say their names!
My mother's side of the family has always been prone to spoonerisms. A favorite: my aunt asked one of her sisters to hand her the nead, threedle and nimble.
A friend of mine, a high school English teacher, dismissed her class by exhorting her students to view a TV presentation of the novel by Charles Dickens they were reading: "Don't forget to watch A Sale of Two Titties." She was so embarrassed she managed to teach the rest of the semester without mentioning the title ever again.
My dear late father left us a long trail of Texan twanged spoonerisms that eventually entered into family lore. Some were simple, like "mission Mormanaries". Others were complex and racy like when he pointed out to our pastor: "This sure is good here cuntin' dountry!"
Being interviewed on radio long ago, was asked what our favorite wedding gift had been. I tried to say "fitted sheets". I hope it was edited out. Never told anyone.
Many years ago, a teaching hospital, which was still run by a group of nuns, was redecorating a former private house to be used as an out-patient clinic. We were meeting to discuss the final phase, the decor. One young nun, quite uncomfortable among all the doctors and administrators, said she wanted to discuss the colours of the rugs and drapes, but kept referring to the "Drugs and Rapes". The more flustered she became, the less she was able to say the right words.
-Dr. David L. Streiner
Years ago I heard a NZ newsreader talking about international world bankers, well, trying to talk about them, but mistakenly saying "international bored wankers". He laughed almost as much as I did.
I've been preaching for decades, starting back when it was rare to see a woman in a pulpit. In a recent sermon mentioning the "Seven Deadly Sins", I confessed that my failings were gluttony and sloth. Only from the pulpit I clearly said "sluttony and gloth". The congregation was startled, then started laughing.
-Rev. Diane Miller
I have a whole series of (dirty) jokes, some were told to me and some I made up, that utilize spoonerisms as the punch line. The normal way of telling these jokes has the joker reveal the first half of the spoonerism, forcing the jokee to finish it in their heads. The cleanest example of my "Dirty Spoonerism Jokes" is below. This one is not original.
Q: What's the difference between the Panama Canal and my mother-in-law on a merry-go-round?
A: One's a busy ditch...
Here's one I really did hear at my travel agency: Your fart will deplight at 3 o'clock.
Last weekend my daughter visited from out of town with her eight-year-old. Our contribution to a family dinner was the purchase of some miniature custard tarts topped with real fruit. The little "fruity tarts" proved so popular that The Uncle, no doubt intentionally, found himself dishing a spoonerism as he asked someone to "Please pass the tooty farts." Imagine the hilarity of an eight-year-old! The giggling references never stopped all weekend as our little Emma recited, with great emphasis: "Always eat your f-fruity tarts; So you can make some tooty farts!"
My mother-in-law once remarked as the hearse rattled up the street, "There goes the underhood neighbortaker."
When I was an editor at a publishing house that I'll leave nameless, galleys from a "how to succeed in business" text crossed my desk. For middle-management types who were what might be described as dead in the water, the author had coined the term "executive shelf-sitters". An indelicate letter reversal had occurred during typesetting. (Try saying "shelf-sitters" to yourself very fast, which is how typesetters have to set type.)
I listened to a weatherman relate his most embarrassing public moment. It seems he was trying to explain how a warm "air mass" would be moving through the area, but it didn't come out right. He said if you say something like that on TV you have to try to neither turn red nor crack a smile yet continue your spiel!
A highlight of any performance by the Capitol Steps, a musical group specializing in political satire, is Lirty Dies. Over the years they've written dozens of these topical poken-sword rants incorporating a bind-moggling series of spoonerisms. Choice examples appear here.
Heard just last Friday (without humorous intent): "The smoke was so thick you could cut a knife with it."
-Hugh D. Hyatt
I, like many people in the "32-and-over" age bracket, was introduced to spoonerisms (even though I was unaware that there was a name for it until much later) via a record by Jack Ross called Cinderella, which is available for your entertainment on YouTube. (Chicasee a fricken, indeed!) Then, in or about 1970, Jim Henson (bless his heart) gave us The Muppets version of The Frog Prince, in which the beautiful Princess Melora has been cursed by a weevil itch -- she can only speak in spoonerisms. I scored a VHS copy of it a few years ago, and it's still as fascinating as it was 40+ years ago. Simply brilliant. It's also viewable on YouTube. I righly hecommend it.
I am famous for spoonerisms. I even do it while singing with a group on stage, and it can be really hard to maintain decorum in the chorus when something strikes me as hysterically funny. Problem is, they tend to repeat. One of the groups I sing with is a church choir and there are certain anthems I dread because I'm afraid I'll snort or giggle whether or not I actually do the spoonerism. For example, Shall we Gather At the River has a line in the refrain "that flows by the throne of God". It's struggle to get it to not come out "throws by the phone of God". My favorite non-musical spoonerism: on a camping trip someone had set the picnic table with cheap silverware and I pick up the fork and said, "Look! A free thronged pork".
Compere at a concert in Dunedin: the orchestra will now play The Bum of the Flightal Bee.
I remember as a child years ago listening to some radio show where a character named Col. Stoopnagle always began his "news" broadcast: "Good ladies, evening and gentlemen of the audio radience..."
On the CBC many years ago an announcer is said to have said "This is the Canadian Broadcorping Castration". The French have their contrep?terie.
My friend, Jennifer, was reading the news on our local radio station in Terrace, BC, when she said, "...and, today, in Kelowna, a woman was madly balled by a bear." It never fails to make us laugh.
Many years ago while guiding a blind friend along the sidewalk past a row of parked cars I told her we had to edge a bit to the right as the "peeking martyrs" were blocking the way. 45 years later I am still enjoying my "error".
I had a professor in college who spoonerized quite often. There were some run of the mill ones like "toin coss" but one day she broke the mold and I almost fell out of my chair. Ladies and gentlemen of A.Word.A.Day, please remember that to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you must "regularcize exerly." I kid you not, my professor uttered that spoonerism and she barely batted an eye. I was looking around frantically as if to say, "Did anybody else hear that?!"
When my family adopted two kittens, they were still unnamed when I observed them exploring the book and display shelving. I remarked, "They're just into every crook and nanny!" That spoonerism became their names.
It was probably less than five minutes after I read the delightful examples by Rev. Spooner out loud to my husband that he (my husband) mentioned he needed "to take the wog for a talk."
In the late 1970s my plant ecology professor at U. of Saskatchewan, Dr Stan Rowe, related a spoonerism. A colleague had shared with Dr Rowe his excitement at discovering a group of large stones known in geomorphology as erratic blocks (erratic because they had been transported by glaciers far from their origin, and block because of their large size). The way it came out was "...we came over a hill and there before our eyes was a whole field of erotic blacks."
My Dad was adept at using spoonerisms in ordinary conversation. You had to sometimes keep your wits about you to be able to follow him. Here's a favourite: coffic traps who wait for you to expede the ceed limit.
My favorite, but likely apocryphal, story about Spooner is that he once spilled a small amount of salt on the table while dining. Mentally reversing the technique for removing a stain, he promptly poured wine on it.
-Alex Novak, author of Tawdry Knickers (and Other Unfortunate Ways to Be Remembered)
My grandmother has become quite famous for her spoonerisms over the years. In this first example she managed to create a double spoonerism and cross two fairy tales: Beeping Sleauty and the Deven Swarves. And my personal favorite: Kenfucky Tried Chicken.