by 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?”
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.
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.