The Quick 10: 10 Spoonerisms (and other twists of the tongue)
You know how sometimes when you're talking, your mouth is moving faster than your brain and you inevitably flip the beginning parts of a couple of words? You might be trying to say, "You have a cozy little nook here," but what comes out is, "You have a nosy little cook here." Well, there's a word for that "“ it's called a Spoonerism. They're named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who was apparently notorious for his accidental wordplay. He would only ever admit to one of them, but it's kind of how every anonymous witty quote ever made ends up getting attributed to Mark Twain: he developed the reputation, so all Spoonerisms end up getting credited to him. There have been some pretty famous and entertaining Spoonerisms over the years. Check out these 10 (some intentional, some"¦ not so much), and let us know about your own tips of the slongue in the comments.
1. Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook was the last children's book written by Shel Silverstein. And he seems like a guy who would appreciate a good spoonerism, don't you think? The book is crammed full with them: "Runny Babbit lent to wunch and heard the saitress way, "We have some lovely stabbit rew, our Special for today."
2. Herbert Hoover is kind of a funny name to begin with "“ I would challenge anyone to say his name 20 times and not mess it up at least once. But that can be a career-threatening mistake when you're a radio announcer. Harry von Zell was talking about Hoover's life and times as part of a birthday tribute. After making it through a pretty lengthy script, Zell's tongue could take no more and he accidentally referred to the President as "Hoobert Heever." "Fortunately the windows were not operative," von Zell later said. "They were fixed windows or I would have jumped out." For the record, von Zell's career was just fine. And technically, this is a "kniferism," not a Spoonerism, since it reverses the middle syllables of the words instead of the beginning sounds.
3. Like I said, many, many Spoonerisms have been attributed to Reverend Spooner, including these gems:
"¢ "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (dear old queen, as in Queen Victoria)
"¢ "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" (customary to kiss the bride)
"¢ "a well-boiled icicle." (a well-oiled bicycle)
But the only one Spooner would admit to was this one, which confused the title of a popular hymn: "Kinkering Kongs Their Titles Take." That would be, "Conquering Kings Their Titles Take."
4. If you're a George Carlin fan, you might already know this one "“ he had a quip that went, "Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things." Sound advice, really.
5. Adlai Stevenson intentionally used a Spoonerism in a speech once, which you have to admit is pretty clever whether you agree with his politics or not. The background: Norman Vincent Peale was a Protestant preacher who was quite vocal about his dislike for Stevenson. In response, Stevenson said, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling."
6. Any Hee Haw fans in the house? Archie Campbell, a writer and the star of the show, loved to use Spoonerisms in skits for the variety show. One of the most famous ones was Campbell's telling of RinderCella - a girl who slopped her dripper, of course. There was also Beeping Sleauty.
7. I've always been amused by this one from Bridget Jones' Diary, which is not quite a Spoonerism, but funny nonetheless.
8. BBC McDonald Hobley ran into the same problem Harry von Zell did many years earlier: a politician with a tongue-twister of a name. At the time, Sir Stafford Cripps was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Imagine the embarrassment when Hobley introduced him as "Stifford Crapps."
9. This one is somewhat of an urban legend "“ it's never been recorded except on a record album called Pardon My Blooper, but it was recreated for the album and not recorded from the original alleged mishap. True or not, the joke that someone once said live on the air that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was "the Canadian Broadcorping Castration" struck a chord with people; the poor CBC is sometimes referred to as such.
10. Abraham Lincoln was quite fond of wordplay. He once wrote in a letter, "He said he was riding bass-ackwards on a jass-ack through a patton-crotch," but we don't know if Lincoln came up with that himself or was actually quoting someone.