Spoonerism, Dr. Spooner, biography
[Spooner, Oxford, biography]
New College, titles take, Spoonerisms

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Dr. Spooner of Oxford
An outline biography

  William Archibald Spooner was born in London on 22 July 1844.

When he was only eighteen, he won a scholarship to New College, Oxford, through which he took two first-class degrees - in classical moderations and humanities. His connections with the college lasted a lifetime as his career developed within the university bounds as a scholar of the classics and of divinity.

Spooner became a fellow of New College in 1867, a lecturer in 1868, a tutor in 1869, dean 1876-1889 (having been ordained as an Anglican priest in 1875) and Warden of New College from 1903, the year in which he completed his Doctor of Divinity degree.

Spooner had a nervous tendency to sometimes transpose initial letters or half-syllables in speech. This tendency became known, circa 1885, as Spoonerism and the sometimes hilarious transpositions became known as Spoonerisms - Dr. Spooner's occasional transpositions created a reputation and started a fad. Students began devising transpositional puns, and attributing them to him.

His famous speech lapses are thought to have resulted from the difficulty he may have had reading. Spooner was an albino and as such, suffered from defective eyesight - he was also short in stature a head dispropotionately large in relation to his body. Dr. Spooner's tendency towards Spoonerism led many people to mistakenly presume that he was a sandwich or two short of a picnic.
Despite such occasional presumptions for almost seventy years Spooner was a much loved character in the city of Oxford with an opinion that was highly regarded. He had a successful career as an eloquent and amusing lecturer on divinity, Aristotle's Ethics, philosophy and ancient history and unconciously won for himself an enviable reputation as a genial, kindly and hospitable man.

Many so-called Spoonerisms may, in fact, be spurious - the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 2nd edition (1953), went so far as to attribute two famous sayings to Dr Spooner - (" Kinquering congs their titles take "), and (" You have deliberately tasted two worms and you can leave Oxford by the town drain ") but the 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."

William Archibald Spooner died on 29 August 1930, the father of two sons and five daughters and the friend and esteemed citizen of a city who loved him. A portrait of Dr Spooner still hangs in New College to this day.


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Dr. Spooner of Oxford
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