A spoonerism is an error in speech in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis) between two words in a phrase.These are named after the Oxford don and ordained minister William Archibald Spooner, who reputedly did this.
They were already renowned by the author François Rabelais in the 16th century, and called contrepèteries.In his novel Pantagruel , he wrote “femme folle à la messe et femme molle à la fesse” ("insane woman at mass, woman with flabby buttocks").
An example is saying "The Lord is a shoving leopard" instead of "The Lord is a loving shepherd." While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue, and getting one's words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words.
Spoonerisms are named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this mistake.The term "Spoonerism" was well established by 1921. An article in The Times from that year reports that,
The boys of Aldro School, Eastbourne, ... have been set the following task for the holidays: Discover and write down something about: The Old Lady of Threadneedle-street, a Spoonerism, a Busman's Holiday...
An article in the Daily Herald in 1928 reported Spoonerisms to be a "legend". Robert Seton, once a student of Spooner's, admitted that Spooner:
made, to my knowledge, only one "Spoonerism" in his life, in 1879, when he stood in the pulpit and announced the hymn: 'Kinkering Kongs their Titles Take'...Later, a friend and myself brought out a book of "spoonerisms"'
In 1937, The Times quoted a detective describing a man as "a bricklabourer's layer" and used "Police Court Spoonerism" as the headline.A spoonerism is also known as a marrowsky, purportedly after a Polish count who suffered from the same impediment.
Most of the quotations attributed to Spooner are apocryphal; The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd edition, 1979) lists only one substantiated spoonerism: "The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer" (instead of "rate of wages"). Spooner himself claimedthat "The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take" (in reference to a hymn) was his sole spoonerism. Most spoonerisms were probably never uttered by William Spooner himself but rather made up by colleagues and students as a pastime. Richard Lederer, calling "Kinkering Kongs their Titles Take" (with an alternative spelling) one of the "few" authenticated Spoonerisms, dates it to 1879, and he gives nine examples "attributed to Spooner, most of them spuriously." They are as follows:
A newspaper columnattributes this additional example to Spooner: "A nosey little cook." (as opposed to a "cosy little nook").
In modern terms, "spoonerism" generally refers to any changing of sounds in this manner.
In his poem "Translation," Brian P. Cleary describes a boy named Alex who speaks in spoonerisms (like "shook a tower" instead of "took a shower"). Humorously, Cleary leaves the poem's final spoonerism up to the reader when he says,
He once proclaimed, "Hey, belly jeans"
When he found a stash of jelly beans.
But when he says he pepped in stew
We'll tell him he should wipe his shoe.
Comedian F. Chase Taylor was the star of the 1930s radio program Stoopnagle and Budd , in which his character, Colonel Stoopnagle, used spoonerisms. In 1945, he published a book, My Tale Is Twisted, consisting of 44 "spoonerised" versions of well-known children's stories. Subtitled "Wart Pun: Aysop's Feebles" and "Tart Pooh: Tairy and Other Fales," these included such tales as "Beeping Sleauty" for "Sleeping Beauty." The book was republished in 2001 by Stone and Scott Publishers as Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted.
On a 3 December 1950 episode of The Jack Benny Program in which Jack mentions that he ran into his butler Rochester while in his car that was on a grease rack. Mary Livingston was supposed to say "How could you run into him on a grease rack?" but flubbed her line with "How could you run into him on a grass reek?" The audience broke up into so much laughter Jack wasn't able to reply as the show ran out of time.
A spoonerism is sometimes used in folk etymology. For example, according to linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, some laymen wrongly believe that the English word butterfly derives from flutter by. p.78:
As complements to spoonerism, Douglas Hofstadter used the nonce words kniferism and forkerism to refer to changing, respectively, the vowels or the final consonants of two syllables, giving them a new meaning.Examples of so-called kniferisms include a British television newsreader once referring to the police at a crime scene removing a 'hypodeemic nerdle'; a television announcer once saying that "All the world was thrilled by the marriage of the Duck and Doochess of Windsor"; and during a live broadcast in 1931, radio presenter Harry von Zell accidentally mispronouncing US President Herbert Hoover's name as "Hoobert Heever." Usage of these new terms has been limited; many sources count any syllable exchange as a spoonerism, regardless of location.
False cognates are pairs of words that seem to be cognates because of similar sounds and meaning, but have different etymologies; they can be within the same language or from different languages, even within the same family. For example, the English word dog and the Mbabaram word dog have exactly the same meaning and very similar pronunciations, but by complete coincidence. Likewise, English much and Spanish mucho came by their similar meanings via completely different Proto-Indo-European roots, and English "have" and Spanish "haber" are similar in meaning but come from different Proto-Indo-European roots. This is different from false friends, which are similar-sounding words with different meanings, but which may in fact be etymologically related.
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two things. Similes differ from other metaphors by highlighting the similarities between two things using comparison words such as "like", "as", "so", or " than", while other metaphors create an implicit comparison. This distinction is evident in the etymology of the words: simile derives from the Latin word similis, while metaphor derives from the Greek word metapherein. While similes are mainly used in forms of poetry that compare the inanimate and the living, there are also terms in which similes are used for very important things.
Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern.
François Rabelais was a French Renaissance writer, physician, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar. He is primarily known as a writer of satire, of the grotesque, and of bawdy jokes and songs.
A malapropism is the mistaken use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance. An example is the statement by baseball player Yogi Berra, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes", rather than "electoral votes". Malapropisms often occur as errors in natural speech and are sometimes the subject of media attention, especially when made by politicians or other prominent individuals. Philosopher Donald Davidson has said that malapropisms show the complex process through which the brain translates thoughts into language.
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The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel is a pentalogy of novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais, telling the adventures of two giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. The work is written in an amusing, extravagant, and satirical vein, features much erudition, vulgarity, and wordplay, and is regularly compared with the works of William Shakespeare and James Joyce. Rabelais was a polyglot, and the work introduced "a great number of new and difficult words [...] into the French language".
William Archibald Spooner was a long-serving Oxford don. He was most notable for his absent-mindedness, and for supposedly mixing up the syllables in a spoken phrase, with unintentionally comic effect. Such phrases became known as spoonerisms, and are often used humorously. Many spoonerisms have been invented and attributed to Spooner.
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Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-born language revivalist and linguist who works in contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity. Zuckermann is Professor of Linguistics and Chair of Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He is the president of the Australian Association for Jewish Studies.
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Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond is a scholarly book written by linguist and revivalist Ghil'ad Zuckermann. It was published in 2020 by Oxford University Press. The book introduces revivalistics, a trans-disciplinary field of enquiry exploring "the dynamics and problematics inherent in spoken language reclamation, revitalization, and reinvigoration".