Posted on July 22, 2014
“Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things.” – George Carlin
“It is kisstomary to cuss the bride...” – mistake made (probably) by the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844 – 1930)
Spoonerisms are slips of the tongue, mistakes made occasionally when people mix up the sounds of words. Reverend Spooner made this sort of mistake A LOT, and some of his mistakes were hilarious...so this sort of mixed-up mistake is now called a Spoonerism.
Sometimes people deliberately create Spoonerisms as a sort of play on words. That is the case in the joke by George Carlin, above.
Other times a person makes a slip, and then as people tell (and retell, and retell a retelling) the Spoonerism, it gets longer and sometimes funnier.
Here's a long Spoonerism. I think you can tell that this must surely have been added to, over the years:
Lady: “Thank you. Chewtiful birch you have here.”
Usher: “Many thinkle peep so.”
Apparently Reverend Spooner's obituary quoted a lot of his most memorable mistakes, like these:
On his visit to a port to see the British fleet, he said that he wanted to see the “cattleships and bruisers.”
One time he scolded his class for “hissing my mystery lectures.”
Some characters in books and movies talk consistently in Spoonerisms for comedic effect. Try to use some Spoonerisms today – it's actually pretty hard to do so! – and see if anybody can understand you.
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