Weekend Word Wrap: Spoonerisms

One of the comments we got in our Weekend Word Wrap on malapropisms was from a reader named Leslie who semi-suggested we tackle the subject of spoonerisms, as well.

But before we get to Revered Spooner, let's first go back to antiquity, because that's where the trouble starts.

The Romans took the Greek hero Herakles, transposed the inner part of the word, and started calling him Hercules (sort of the way many of us say nucular instead of nuclear), thus creating what's known as a metathesis. Now I don't mind a metathesis like nucular, but so much as mumble the word excetera for etcetera and I'm liable to start searching around the room for a large mallet. (I've often wondered if they abbreviate it ect. instead of etc.)

A spoonerism is also a kind of metathesis, only instead of switching parts of the word, the beginnings of two separate words get flop flipped. The trick here, of course, is that the resulting new order must make sense. It's not enough just to thype tusly, because that's plain silly, right?
The word "spoonerism" was coined by a British albino educationalist and Anglican clergyman named William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), whose mind worked faster than his tongue. As a result, he'd wind up raising a toast to Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria, by proclaiming, "Three cheers for our queer old dean!"

Many people, like Dr. Spooner, have a tendency to switch parts of words around when they become nervous or agitated. I recall being on a first date once, palms sweating, anxious to say all the right things, and muttering, "Yeah, but who for can get that?" Not a pure spoonerism, but close. Here are some of my favorites -- and as usual, we'd love to hear yours.

Picture 21.pngRental Deceptionist

Cop porn

Sword witch

You've tasted two worms

Lack of pies

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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