A Souvenir Spoonerism

Did I tell you guys I made a Spoonerism this year?

A Spoonerism is a phrase where the speaker unintentionally flips the beginning of the word with the beginning from another word from the phrase. This can be one sound, as in ‘go shake a tower’ for ‘go take a shower’ (remembering that sh is actually one phonetic unit, [ʃ] ). The switch can also happen with larger consonant clusters as in “chipping the flannel” (where ch represents the affricate [tʃ] ).

Spoonerisms are named after William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an Oxford professor who occasionally misspoke during his classes in a way that accidentally created these phrases, such as “You have hissed all of my mystery classes.” Spooner did not flip his words that often, but it became his legacy, which genuinely bothered  him. He was a smart man, but couldn’t be sure that people attended his lectures for his knowledge once this reputation was created, and once said to a crowd “You don’t want to hear a speech, you just want me to say one of those … things.” : ( Poor Bill Archie.

Spoonerisms are not my favorite word thing. Sure, they are fun, but they never stick with me for long. (Portmanteaus and eponyms are more my style).

So anyway. I came up with a Spoonerism at some point this year.

Bird watcher –> Word botcher.

Yayyy. It’s great because it describes a person who has a slip of the tongue, a Spoonerism-maker. Yayyy.

*Fun fact* The verb botch has been in English since at least 1382, though it was originally a neutral term meaning ‘to fix or repair.’ It became negative and has meant ‘to fix or repair poorly, to mess up’ since 1530ish. Botch sounds like one of those words those damn kids are always coming up with in their street slang, but no. It’s got deep roots, just like everybody else.

Self portrait with name on magnet on spoon on nose.

P.S. With some prompting by friend-of-the-show @Aestro, these spoon-themed music-related Spoonerisms are now available:

Moonspan by Soundgarden
Dare Me Town by Spoon (cover)
I Law the Sight by Spoon

August 17, 2012

in Words & Origins

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ben August 18, 2012 at 3:07 AM

Are word mix-ups still considered Spoonerisms if you switch middle consonant clusters? I seem to have spoonerism attacks about twice a year and I wrote down just a handful, but they’re one of those fun word toys that make me smile. Here are some:
The clog feared out
Straight as a flow cries
The sink is shipping
Doggamn it


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