Spoonerisms - named for the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an Oxford don who actually claimed to have only made one spoonerism in his life (calling a hymn "The Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take", instead of "The Conquering Kings Their Titles Take"). At its simplest, it's simply mixing up the first letter or sound of two words, so that Elarity Hinsues. It's meanerally gent to appear accidental, either as a result of falking too tast, or tea many martoonis.
It can also, as in that last example, involve mixing up sounds from the middles or ends of words. (This is also known as Kniferism and Forkerism.) It can also involve more than two words, tut bat's amfully awbitious true thigh.
Extra points if the spoonerism still makes sense, just not the sense you would want to make. Spoonerisms can also be used by cunning writers as a form of Petting Rap Cast the Gaydar, especially when it comes to Muntry Catters.
Characters who speak entirely in these are likely to become Terbal Vicked. See also Malaproper.
Has nothing to do with Spoony Bards. Or the other spoony Spoony, or Funny Spoon.
open/close all folders
An old advert for Trebor Extra Strong Mints ran with this. Apparently they make your dung tizzy.
Which Dean Martin developed into "I would rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy."
The line apparently has a long and mysterious history. Radio comedian Fred Allen and television comedian Steve Allen have also been credited with having come up with it.
Lirty Dies from Capitol Steps has this as the point of the character. He simply delivers a long monologue with at least one spoonerism per sentence. In addition, proper nouns that were spoonerized (i.e. all of them) retain their new name throughout the sketch (For example, after refering to that Madman Saddam as that Sadman Maddam, he called him Maddam the whole routine). Made even more impressive by how most of the spoonerism make more sense than just being silly. He also engages in liberals amounts of Getting Crap Past the Radar by simply spoonerizing the dirty word.
Occasionally, the Lirty Dies dialogue will subvert this trope for fun, using alliteration (e.g. "those accountants and attorneys at Arthur Anderson"). And then Shamplade it.
Do you think I'm crazy enough to flip the words "Forty Bucks?"
Done again recently with the Anthony Weiner scandal.
I didn't have to flip that name.
Terry Foy (or is it Ferry Toy?) spoonerised certain Tairy Fales—I mean, Fairy Tales, for hilarious results. One example: "Loldigocks was falking through the worest." Sound that out in your mind.
Archie Campbell did the same thing with Rindercella and The Pee Little Thriggs.
Jack Ross had a Top 20 hit in 1962 with a comedy/novelty record relating the tale of "Cinderella" and consisting of these. Listen to it here.
The entire 10,840 word long joke "Lost in the Desert" is a set up for the phrase " Better Nate Than Lever" to be said in a way that makes sense in context.
A quirky scientist character in one of Don Rosa's old comics (who invents a universal solvent, which would later be recycled in an Uncle Scrooge story) speaks in near-constant spoonerisms. This becomes particularly embarrassing when he tries to call the president a "smart fella".
In the Tin Tin comics, Thomson and Thompson make spoonerisms once or twice. To be precise, Thompson and Thomson spake moonerisms twonce or ice.
The Sheriff, in Robert McCloskey's children's books Homer Price and Centerburg Tales, is all about this trope.
In Jingo, Sgt. Colon reminisces about his military years with the "Pheasant Pluckers", a regiment nicknamed for how they'd stolen poultry from a noble's estate. Angua nearly laughs herself sick when he muses aloud that lots of people seemed unable to pronounce this nickname...
Paul Jennings, along with Ted Greenwood and Terry Denton, are responsible for a book just full of these. The title? Spooner or Later. The authors' names are even spoonerised on the back of the book. It also qualifies as a Hurricane of Puns.
Gruntan Kurdly, villainous barbarian warlord of the Redwall installment Eulalia, slips up when trying to say "give 'em blood and thunder". When someone calls him on it, he declares that he meant to do it because "Thud and Blunder" sounds better, and threatens his followers into agreeing.
In an earlier book, Rollo the baby bankvole picks up garbled versions of Basil and Ambrose's drinking songs, and starts singing about fighting a flagon and drinking a dragon.
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart described something as a "cunch to the punt," after hearing about someone who criticized someone for saying "ass backwards" instead of "bass ackwards." He immediately wished he had said "a dunch to the pick."
Kenny Everett had a character called Cupid Stunt, although for understandable reasons her surname never appeared in official BBC publicity.
In Action, when Peter's character finds out his ex-wife is pregnant with his baby while bearding for a closeted gay film executive. ...she tells him he can't tell anyone:
Ex-wife: Peter, my husband doesn't want the world to know that you perform all of his vaginal stunts. Peter: And what a cunning stunt you are.
Princess Melora from The Muppets' 1971 TV special "The Frog Prince" was cursed to speak like this:
Melora: Bake the hall in the candle of her brain!note Break the ball in the handle of her cane.
An episode of That '70s Show has a drunk Jackie Burkhart do this with her own name:
Jackie: Ah, come back here! Nobody ignores Jerky Backhart!
When introducing himself on an episode of Password, celebrity guest Bill Cullen told America that "we're all here to pass Playword." Announcer Jack Clark laughed and then introduced the show as Playword himself, and then host Allen Ludden jokingly gave Bill a hard time about it.
Toby Keith's "American Ride" has the line "the fit's gonna hit the shan."
Robbers On High Street's "Spanish Teeth" has the same spoonerism with the lines "Do you remember where it all began / Before the fit ever hit the shan?"
Jasper Carrott, a well-known British comedian, once performed a song called 'Chastity Belt' that was chock-full of these. For example, 'Mentle Gaiden' and some other rather unsavoury ones like "The billy old sastard has yitted a Fale" or "Alas and alack I'm f...locked up forever"
George Strait's "The Chair" has "Well, thank you / Could I drink you a buy / Oh listen to me / What I mean is, can I buy you a drink".
The "clean" version of Eminem's song "My 1st Single," off of his 2004 album Encore, changes a certain phone number to "1-800-I'm-A-Sick-Ducker-I-Love-To-Duck-A-Sick." Three guesses as to what the original number was, and the first two don't count.
Tim: And now I'd like to introduce the Kent-Hunt Cup...but I daren't.
The first episode of Series 5 of I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again segues from the opening credits into "The David Hatch Show", in which David Hatch, usually limited to the role of narrator, passes himself off as a DJ. His DJ patter includes the following careful subversion of the obvious spoonerisms:
David Hatch: Yes, it's Dave the Rave on the medium wave, with another happy-go-go, ringing-dinging, bunky-futting, frunty-bucking, brunty-funking, funting-butting - that was close! (audience laughter) Funky-butting fun time of fun and frolics on Radio Hatch!
In Tom Stoppard's On The Razzle (which is an adaptation of Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen, which was also adapted by Thorton Wilder as The Matchmaker, which was adapted by Michael Stewart And Jerry Herman as Hello, Dolly!!...where was I? Oh, yes...) Zangler, the shop owner does this regularly, usually, but not always correcting himself. Par Exemplum...
Do you suppose I'd let my airedale be hounded up hill and-my heiress be mounted up hill and bank by a truffle-hound-be trifled with by a mountebank?
Or, he is helped out by another...
Zangler: ...this is the first time Madame Knorr has had the privilege of being swept round the heap of my camp fire.
Christopher: That's very well put, chief.
Zangler: I don't mean the heap of my camp fire.
Christopher: Humped round the scene of your memoirs?
Christopher: Squired round the hub of your empire?
Zangler: That's the boy!
Briefly discussed in Mary Mary, where Mary offers an anecdotal example from her life:
Mary: I was buying a hammock for the porch at home. And in a crowded elevator I said, "Miss where do you have perch forniture?" Dirk: Perch forniture? Mary: Don't you know the unsuitable things that would go on in perch forniture?
State of the Union, when Mary has been drinking a bit too much:
Grant: Mary, I'm on a spot here tonight. We both are. We have to be ready to do some quick thinking. Mary: Don't worry about me. I'm a very thick quinker.
In Of Thee I Sing, a Senator's convention speech denounces the "entangling alliances of Europe" and the "allying entanglances of Asia."
The Infocom text-adventure game Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It featured a chapter of Spoonerisms. The player had to change a shoving leopard into a loving shepherd, a well-boiled icicle into a well-oiled bicycle, etc.
Twilight Heroes has an entire quest, "A Dank and Rusty Mystery", which takes place in the Rank and Dusty Maze.
Rift: Some life invasions contain creatures called "Flutterbys."
In Beyond Good & Evil when Jade tells the IRIS password ("Safe and sound in its shell, the precious pearl is the slave of the currents") to the newspaper seller in the city, he thinks that it's a spoonerism. ("Cave of the slurrents?") This may be a reference to the early draft of the game script, where the rebel organization was called SPOON.
The first boss of Dragon Quest VIII, Geyzer, lets off a lot of these. He apparently didn't used to talk like this, but when a fortune teller threw his crystal ball into the waterfall Geyzer calls home, it hit him square in the head.
A borderline example occurs in one Questionable Content strip, where an extremely drunk Amir mutters that he's "too fuck to drunk" before falling asleep.
Victor from 'Victor & Hugo - Bunglers in Crime' was very prone to this, to the point where he, and others, would spoonerise the spoonerisms into a garbled mess of the original intended message. On the odd occassion where Hugo took charge, HE would become spoonerific himself.
Cool McCool, an obscure NBC Saturday morning cartoon from 1966 (created by Bob Kane, no less), has its title character with this verbal tic. To wit, after capturing arch-foe the Owl:
Mc-Cool: For your crime, you'll get twenty years on word seed and butter. Er, bird seed and water.
Superfriends 1973/74 episode "The Balloon People". Dr. Noah Tall's assistant Twisty uses one of these in every sentence he speaks, and each time is corrected by Dr. Tall. By the end of the episode he has Dr. Tall doing it too.
In the King of the Hill episode "Junkie Business" when Hank hires a drug addict. The junkie picks up the ringing phone responding, "Strickland Propane Taste the Heat, not the Meat." Hank quickly correct the slogan over the phone and is apparently Serious Business.
In the second Scooby-Doo Movies guest starring Batman and Robin, there was a scientist who had invented a flying suit. However, he suffered from Spoonerisms greatly, sometimes calling his invention a "sighing flute".
Sure she lived in a big HARK DOUSE with her mean old MEP STOTHER and her two SISTY UGLERS and they made her do all the WORDY DIRK while they sat around CHEATING OCKLATES and MAGGING READAZINES....The next day [the prince] went from house to house but you can't turn that around.
AccuWeather.com's meteorologists must be glad they pre-record their forecasts; judging by all the spoonerisms that make it onto their blooper reel they would not do well on live TV...check out such gems as "saylight davings" and "thumb somderstorms" in this particular clip.
In Brazil, particularly terrible puns are known as a "trocadalho do carilho" - something along the lines of "a pucking fun" (though changing the last syllable instead of the first).
Feel sorry for little Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Spoonerised, her name becomes Piloh Jolie-Shitt...that's going to be awkward when all her friends are old enough to work out Spoonerisms.
The Capitol Steps "Lirty Dies" skits already made fun of this one, in a subversion where he repeated the name "in straight talk" twice, then paused without completing the flipped version and exclaimed that they had named their child after a "Dile of pung!"
Or old enough to read this website. Whichever comes first.
There was a story in Reader's Digest some years back about a brilliant and beloved university professor who frequently spoke in spoonerisms because, according to the article, his mind worked so fast that his mouth simply couldn't keep up. Possibly the most charming incident the article related was when he addressed a woman who had taken his seat in chapel: "I beg your pardon, but you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to your sheet?"
It's generally attributed to Spooner himself, and goes "Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet."
Most of the "spoonerisms" attributed to Spooner are apocryphal, were said by someone else, or were invented. For example, there's no proof Spooner actually said "You've hissed all my mystery lectures and tasted two whole worms, and you will leave this college on the next town drain!" The only one he admitted to was saying the name of a hymn as "Kinkering Congs their titles take" instead of "Conquering Kings."
Genuine article or not, "the Lord is a shoving leopard" must be among the funniest attributed to the man.
Not to mention the time he supposedly proposed a toast to "the queer old Dean".
In reality, although Spooner was far better known for his namesake trope, he was much more of an Absent-Minded Professor, with a history of what might be called mental spoonerisms such as asking a new faculty addition if he was going to his own welcoming party, or writing a note and then adding a postscript to disregard the note. There's more on his page on TOW.
It may be an urban legend, but there's a story about a senator/M.P. who called another a "shining wit", then apologized for the spoonerism.
There was much hilarity in 2010 at BBC Radio 4 presenter James Naughtie's accidental spoonerism when discussing Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary. It's terribly unfair that Naughtienote pronounced "noch-ty", but that was ignored for the inevitable pun-laden headlines will probably live it down well before Mr C— Mr Hunt does.
Many jokes feature vulgar spoonerisms - or, rather, set them up and leave the listener to finish them off.
Q. What's the difference between the Barnum and Bailey Circus and a line of Playboy centerfolds? A. The circus is a cunning array of stunts...
A well-known music joke: Q: What's the difference between a seamstress and a soprano? A: The seamstress frills and tucks.
Alternate version for A: The seamstress tucks up the frills.
Another version revolving around a different music stereotype: Q: What's the difference between a seamstress and a French horn player? A: The seamstress says, "Tuck the frills."
There's also: "What's the difference between a chiropractor and a drummer? The chiropractor bucks up your feet."
A squickier variant: "What's the difference between an epileptic corn farmer and a prostitute with diarrhea? One of them shucks between fits."'
What's the difference between Lady Godiva and a missing golf ball? The missing golf ball is a hunt on a course.
Naming your cat "Cooking Fat" so you don't even have to try to swear when drunk (works best with an accent.)
Zilch the Torysteller builds his entire act at the Renaissance Faire around this and it's hilarious.
Sean Connery is credited with this resolution to the proper pronunciation of “Celt” issue: If I’m a Selt, you’re a sunt.
ABC News presenter Joel Daly once said on-air that rumors of a presidential veto came from a "high white horse souse."
A traditional toast (sometimes attributed to Tom Waits): "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."
Chapel Hill, North Carolina does a street fair every year called Apple Chill.
Programmers often like to mock "feeping creaturism" - the result of "creeping featurism", a piece of bloated software with tons of mostly useless features glued together messily like Frankenstein's creature.
A common Spooneristic pick-up line goes "Hey, what can I do you for?"
Affy Tapples, the leading brand of caramel (taffy) apples.
There is a tongue twister that repeatedly mentions a person who is a pheasant plucker.