Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Art of Spoonerisms

This is a favourite subject in our house and one that causes much regular hilarity. I am a frequent offender, but it is M who wins the prize. Much to his delight (he still teases me about it), I once took him to see the Doctor because he was Spoonering like mad after a bicycle accident in which I still maintain he hit his head although he says he did not. The GP looked at me as if I was mad when I explained why we were there. I'm certain I heard ill-concealed sniggering as we left.

The children are less inclined to Spoon but do come up with some blinders of their own every now and then.

In case you've not heard of it before, a Spoonerism is when the words of a sentence come out in a muddle with humorous results. They are named after the Reverend William Spooner (1844-1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was more prone than most to make them, usually in a magnificently public forum.

Here a selection of my favourites that are attributed to him:
"Three cheers for our Queer Old Dean" ( Dear Old Queen- I bet Victoria was not at all amused) 
"That was a blushing crow" (crushing blow)
"There is nothing like a well-boiled icicle" (well-oiled bicycle)
"Is the bean dizzy?" (Dean busy)
"You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm." (missed all my history lessons, wasted a whole term).

In our house they are less poetic but equally funny (well, to us anyway).
Examples of humorous word butchery from me include:
mole rodles (role models)
I don't know the North coast on the South (go figure that one!)
You've hit it on the nutshell (which is a combination of you've got it in a nutshell and you've hit the nail on the head- I thought that one was rather clever)
And what is possibly my favourite, and happened when I was a student working at a bookshop. A customer rang wanting to know when a book he had ordered would be ready. I meant to say "to be honest I'm not sure" but sadly it came out "to be sure I'm not honest." Now, I would have laughed had I been the customer but he'd evidently had a sense of humour ectomy and there was a long and hostile silence on the other end of the phone.

M's spoonerisms are more frequent and include:
fistro paley (filo pastry)
little flub lontelroy (little lord fauntleroy)
white cats always look dirty in the snow (not technically a spoonerism but it still makes me giggle)
under water africas (aquifers)
This ski is no good for snowing on (in Switzerland)  
french is the petite for small

And from the children :

L - It's impossible to clap with one hand

F - I went to Weyhill Hawk Conservancy and digested an owl pellet (dissected)

L - I went to Monkey World and saw a Remang a Tang (orangutang)

F- It's my New Year Revelation (resolution)

M's sister once knew a man called Russel Sprout (what mean parents he had) and some years ago we were telling the kids about it. The conversation ran thusly:
M "Russel Sprout, what kind of vegetable does that remind you of?"
L "carrot"

L (aged 5) "It's important not to bugger the puppy"
Me (aged 33) "I think you mean bug or bother darling."

J: I know what my name means in Swahili
M: You mean Hebrew

But the prize for the best Spoonerism in the family goes to M's mum who frequently talks about the "bum of the flightle bee." It makes me laugh every time.

I'd love to know which Spoonerisms are favourites in your family, if for no other reason than to persuade myself that the common occurrence of them in mine is perfectly normal! Come on Denise- I know you you won't let me down! I'll add the best to the bottom of this post. Now there's a challenge for you all :-)

Spoons From Blogging Pals...

Par Cark (Em and Lou Mary)
Feak and Weeble (Lou Mary & Her Mum)
I am not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am (Denise)
Those darn bogs have been darking all night (Dara)
Nates But Farm (Bates Nut Farm) (Dara) 
Leather and havender (heather and lavender ) M
Lorly Peg (Ma)

I've also remembered a line from the great Terry Pratchett when a drunken Sam Vimes finds himself with Colon and Nobby in a dangerous area of Ankh-Morpork called The Shades: "You can Bootle in your Trems!"
And finally one from an American actress who was trying very hard and failing completely to say "Massachusetts." Instead she kept on saying "Massa two shits" and it has completely undone my ability to pronounce it correctly ever since!


  1. I've never actually managed to say Car Park without saying Par Cark first. I now try and do it in my head but it doesn't always work.

    1. I always used to say Par Cark!!

    2. I wonder if you get a pained expression of absolute concentration on your face Em while trying to get it out right. I know I do!

      Par Cark is a top one and commonly heard in our family too Lou :-)

  2. PS - For some reason your sidebar has been quivering for the last week. I wonder if it's only me that's seeing it?

    1. Not quivering here. Is it your eyes Em? :-)

  3. I've finally caught up with reading all the blog posts on my 'reading list' from before I went away. This post made me giggle aloud - I think Bracken thought I was going mental whilst wanting me to shut up so he could carry on snoozing on my lap!

    My mum and I always say stupid things the wrong way round but I can't think of any examples currently. We always say feak and weeble instead of weak and feeble though :)

    1. Feak and Weeble brilliant! That's one of mine too: I say it all the time - so much so I'd forgotten it's not actually correct ;-)

  4. Okay...ahem...'I am not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am!'

    Will that do??

  5. Hi Em I laughed and laughed when I read this post. I so enjoyed it. I do get things missed up however for the life of me at present i cannot think of anything to put pen to paper now. Margaret

    1. Hi Margaret :-)

      Glad it gave you a giggle. If anything comes back to you drop me a line on the comments page and I'll add it to the post.

      What's reassuring is that we all seem to do it!!

  6. I never knew there was a word for my ailment. I am always saying the wrong word and my daughter is not far behind me in doing the same. It's getting late and I can't think of anything at the moment!
    My son always used to say par cark too,it's strange how common this is.
    Sarah x

    1. Reassuringly so...

      The only reason I remember ours is because we have a book in which we keep a record of all the funny things the family have said over the years from when the kids were really small. It always makes me laugh out loud whenever I read it back. L's favourite when he was little was "egg oaks" instead of "egg yolks"

  7. Your post made me laugh! Have never heard about the Art of Spoonerisms before, but I am sure I can do it, too :-)! Nothing funny comes to mind right now, but I am sure there were some...

    1. Hi Christina :-)

      Thanks for the comment and the follow :-)

      Glad the post gave you a giggle- isn't it reassuring to know we're not alone in muddling words? Which has reminded me that was another one I used to get the wrong way round: murds wuddled.

  8. It's reassuring that other people get muddled with their words, too! I used to do a lot of presentations and I always wondered if I'd ever get someone's name round the wrong way (fatal, I would have giggled!)

    1. Forgetting people's names is my biggest worry- it usually happens when I need to introduce them to somebody else and my mind goes completely blank! Muddling them the wrong way round would be really funny :-)

  9. I love Spoonerisms you have some fantastic ones! We have two (in?)famous ones in our family: The first came from my mother one night when I was very small and we lived in the country and there were dogs outside barking. She asked my dad to go out and run them off because "those darn bogs have been darking all night!"

    The second: there is a place that we used to go to that sold farmgrown nuts, fruits, honey and various other things called Bates Nut Farm. We were getting ready to go with my parents and my oldest son asked where we were going and I told him we were going to "Nates But Farm" and now we can't call it anything else...

    1. These are brilliant Dara thank you. I've added them to the post :-)

      I love the way back to front and other silly sayings pass into family folklore.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x