avatarby Neva Bodin

Have you ever been told to “Go and shake a tower?” If your spouse or mother said that to you, perhaps it was a “spoonerism.” My title for this blog contains a spoonerism.

Merriam-Webster defines metathesis as: “a: transposition of two phonemes in a word (as in the development of crud from curd or the pronunciation \ˈpər-tē\ for pretty)” and phoneme as, “the smallest unit of speech that can be used to make one word different from another word.”

Sometime in the early 1900’s, a new word meaning essentially the same thing as metathesis was coined—spoonerism.

“It is kisstomary to cuss the bride,” said Reverend William Archibald Spooner. And another time, he courteously pointed out to someone, “you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?”

kissing bride and groom.jpg
wikimedia commons image

Reverend Spooner, born in London July 22, 1844 was an albino with defective eyesight, which some thought might explain some of his gems coining the new word for the dictionary. Thereby Reverend Spooner became an eponym: “An eponym is a person (real or fictitious) whose name has become identified with a particular object or activity.” (Wikepedia)

Reader’s Digest magazine had an article on this—“Reverend Spooner’s Tips of the Slung”  in February, 1995 which I had ripped out and kept somewhere, to be discovered this past year in something I was going through, perhaps it was in my Bible, a favorite place to store things of interest for me, I don’t remember. That article was condensed from AP NEWSFEATURESJULES LOH.

Spooner was known as a very intelligent writer, scholar, and Anglican priest who lectured at New College, Oxford in the United Kingdom for 60 years. He also served as dean and president during his tenure there.

Queen Tamar of Georgia, 19th century picture-Wikimedia

Other quips attributed to him are: A toast to “our queer old dean” instead of to “our dear old Queen;” and “You have tasted a whole worm” (to a lazy student instead of “you have wasted a whole term.”)

Adding some spoonerisms to a story could certainly add dimension to a character. And in writing this blog, I added to my vocabulary!

The Reverend Spooner sounds like a delightful character to have known.


14 thoughts on “USE THE “HEN OF TARTS!”

  1. What a totally unique post and it’s delightfully interesting! I’ve never heard of Reverend Archibald Spooner, but I have heard some of the “slung”. Thank you for researching and sharing such a unique post. I really enjoyed it!


    1. Ha, now you gave me a laugh. Yes, “spooning” was a term I heard from my parents generation. May have to research how it came to be called that, but I think I may have an idea from an ancient Scandinavian custom I think.


  2. Oh thank you for the smile. I found it fascinating that as an albino he lived so long. (There were two in my family tree who didn’t). This post was just what I needed. Thanks Neva. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris! Yes, he did live quite a while, dying in 1930. Albinism is an interesting trait. One article said he had an abnormally large head for his body. Not sure if that’s related or not. He obviously had a very fine high-powered brain. Glad I gave you a smile.


  3. I knew a little of this from way back, Neva, but it was great to be reminded. I remember thinking back in university days (1970s) that Malapropisms were the same as Spoonerisms. I’m still not sure that I can tell the difference. 🙂


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