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117 "spoonerism" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)




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This article is from the alt.usage.english FAQ, by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu with numerous contributions by others.

117 "spoonerism" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)


This term for interchanging parts of two different words in a
phrase is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner
(1844-1930), Dean and Warden of New College, Oxford. The Oxford
Dictionary of Quotations, 2nd edition (1953), attributed two famous
spoonerisms to Dr Spooner: "Kinquering congs their titles take",
and "You have deliberately tasted two worms and you can leave Oxford
by the town drain." (The "down train" was the train going away from
London, in this case through Oxford. Other popular attributions to
Dr Spooner are: "a well boiled icicle"; "a blushing crow"; "a
half-warmed fish"; "our shoving leopard"; "our queer old Dean"; "You
hissed my mystery lectures"; "My boy, it's kisstomary to cuss the
bride"; "Take this in aid of Oxford's beery wenches"; "When the boys
come home from France, we'll have hags flung out"; "Pardon me,
madam, you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?";
and "Have you any signifying glasses? Oh well, it really doesn't
magnify.")

But after the publication of "Spooner: A Biography" by Sir
William Hayter (W. H. Allen, 1976, ISBN 0-491-01658-1), the Oxford
Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd edition (1979), gives only one
spoonerism ("weight of rages"), and says: "Many other Spoonerisms,
such as those given in the previous editions of O.D.Q., are now
known to be apocryphal." The OED says the word "spoonerism" was
"known in colloquial use in Oxford from about 1885." In his diary
entry of 9 May 1904, Spooner wrote that someone he met at dinner
"seemed to think he owed me some gratitude for the many
'Spoonerisms' which I suppose have appeared in Tit Bits." One of
the undergraduates who attested "weight of rages" commented: "Well,
I've been up for four years, and never heard the Spoo make a
spoonerism before, and now he makes a damned rotten one at the last
minute."

 

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