Spoonerism, verbal transpositions
Spooner, New College, Oxford, verbal transposition

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Spoonerism & Spoonerisms

  Dr. Spooner of New College, Oxford, has been credited with accidentally uttering a number of amusing verbal transpositions such as :- " Kinquering congs their titles take "

It seems however that although Spooner had an occasional tendency towards such verbal transposition this habit was seized upon, circa 1885 when the word Spoonerism was coined in association with Spooner's little slips, such that students began devising transpositional puns and attributing them to Dr. Spooner.

The several examples of Spoonerism that have been sometimes attributed to Dr. Spooner include such gems as :-

  • "Blushing crow" for "crushing blow"

  • A well-boiled icicle" for "well-oiled bicycle."

  • "I have in my bosom a half-warmed fish" (for half-formed wish).

  • He raised this toast to Her Highness Victoria: "Three cheers for our queer old dean!"

  • Upon dropping his hat: "Will nobody pat my hiccup?"

  • At a wedding: "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride."

  • Paying a visit to a college official: "Is the bean dizzy?"

  • Addressing farmers as "ye noble tons of soil"

  • Visiting a friend's country cottage: "You have a nosey little crook here."

  • He reprimanded one student for "fighting a liar in the quadrangle"

  • Another stern reprimand to a misbehaving student:- "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted two worms. Pack up your rags and bugs, and leave immediately by the town drain!"


  • "Mardon me padom, you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?"

Dr. Spooner seems to have been a little disconcerted by the way in which his occasional modest verbal transpositions were taken up by the students of Oxford. Once when a group of students clamoured outside his window for him to make a speech, he called down: "You don't want to hear a speech: you just want me to say one of those... things."

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 3rd edition (1979), recognises only one authentic Spoonerism ("weight of rages") - as in "The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer," - and says: "Many other Spoonerisms, such as those given in the previous editions of O.D.Q., are now known to be apocryphal."

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