Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Spoonerism

We all know what a spoonerism is, though explanations tend to rely on examples rather than definition: ‘Verbal parapraxis of transposing initial letters or syllables’ doesn’t tell most people much, but ‘Well, for example, “You have hissed all my mystery lectures”’ does. Incidentally that one is said to be one of the original Dr Spooner’s, who was said to make so many he gave his name to the (para)practice. I suspect most of the examples one reads are, as they say, ‘Apocryphal’, i.e. not true, but more interestingly Spooner himself is said to have been given to what might be called ousiastic spoonerisms: transpositions of actions rather than words. For instance, he is said once to have, on catching the down train, (the ‘town drain’, as he might have called it), kissed the porter and given his wife half-a-crown. But then, Spooner was an Oxford don, and given their reputation this might not in fact have been a mistake.

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