REVIEW of REVIEWS

“Spoonerisms” Not all Spooner

But Oxford Don's Name is Now Adopted Into Language as Father of Verbal Lapses.

MANCHESTER GUARDIAN September 15 1929
REVIEW of REVIEWS

“Spoonerisms” Not all Spooner

But Oxford Don's Name is Now Adopted Into Language as Father of Verbal Lapses.

MANCHESTER GUARDIAN September 15 1929

“Spoonerisms” Not all Spooner

But Oxford Don's Name is Now Adopted Into Language as Father of Verbal Lapses.

MANCHESTER GUARDIAN

IF DR. SPOONER, the Oxford Don famed for putting the cart before the horse in his speech, never made but one such blunder, he gave a word to the language which will never be forgotten. A “Spoonerism” is formed by the transposition of letters, initial or otherwise, and the Doctor’s famous “kinquering congs their tatles tike” is the prime specimen. An interest in these oddities has recently been revived in the Manchester Guardian by holding a competition on the subject, and probably all possible Spoonerisms, genuine and manufactured, were brought forward. This paper warns us that there were Spoonerisms long before Spooner, and that these transpositions “no doubt amused the Pharaohs and possibly provoked raucous laughter in the torch-lit caverns of primitive man;” but for this day and age the glory, such as it is, is all Dr. Spooner’s.

“Most of the classic examples are, rightly or wrongly, attached to him; how he delighted to ride ‘a well-boiled icycle;’ how he carried ‘two rags and a bug’ with him on train journeys; how he greeted the servant when he called on the Dean of Christ Church with the remark ‘Is the bean dizzy;?’ how at the station refreshment-room he demanded a ‘bath of milk and a glass bun;’ how when visiting a friend who had bought a little country cottage, he congratulated him ‘on the nosey little cook’ he had secured; how when accosted by the verger while searching the aisle of the church he explained his actions by saying he was looking for ‘a little glutton dropt from a bove;’ how he said he intended to spend the long vacation ‘rambling on the scalps;’ how he criticized a student’s composition by saying that there were ‘too many prowlers in his hose;’ how he invited a gathering of advanced Laborites to give ‘three cheers for the queer old dean,’ and described their failure to respond as a ‘blushing crow’ to his belief in the patriotism of the worker; how he referred to a famous official report as ‘the repeal of Lord Port;’ how he accused the charlady of ‘peeling the new stoker;’ how he advised a lady not to buy at the shops but to ‘steal at the doors.’

And so on. The pulpit, we are told, supplied a good many tales, some of which are new:

“It was Dr. Spooner who asked the congregation to sing with him ‘From Iceland’s Greasy Mountains;’ who discoursed in learned detail on the interrelations of the ‘synospel Goptics;’ and who referred to ‘tearful chidings’ of the evangelist. To the goodly company of which he is head there surely belong the genial curate who informed an astonished congregation that ‘Rabaras was a bobber;’ the vicar who in a funeral sermon described a confrère as one who had been a ‘shoving leopard’ to his flock, and urged the aforesaid flock to respect his ‘merished chemory;’ the bishop who, describing the miraculous draft of fishes, declared that the Disciples ‘shot a most wonderful goal which almost broke the net;’ the dean who referred to the emotions of Jonah in the ‘bale’s whelly;’ the nervous layman who made the Scriptures say that it is easy for a camel to go through ‘the knee of an idol;’ the archdeacon who hoped that the congregation would be filled with ‘fresh veal and new zigor;’ and the pastor who warned his hearers that there is no peace in the home where ‘a dinner swells.’

The platform, the stage, and also ordinary life add their quotas.

“No less a politician than Lord Oxford is accused of having refused to alter a bill by one ‘tit or jottle,’ and a titled politician gets the credit of having welcomed a rural audience as ‘noble tons of soil.’ An opponent described a Conservative candidate at his election as a ‘bull-flooded’ Protectionist, and another recalled the Labor candidate who declared that his party was not one only of manual workers, but also of ‘boilers of the train.’ There is war-time flavor about the story of the speaker who ascribed the safe passage of troops to France to the vigilance of the ‘Flannel Sheet,’ while the pacifist may chuckle over the too enthusiastic praiser of great men who declared that ‘the greatest forces, the greatest educationists for peace and brotherhood were War and Shells.’

“And even in the routine of life the ‘Spoonerism’ occurs. The gentlemen who entered muddy from a wintry day risked having misunderstood the angry request. ‘Hush that brat; it’s roaring with pain outside,’ and the servant who was instructed to ‘take the flea off my cat and heave it at the louse of my mother-in-law’ had a clear case for pardon if he didn’t. The story of the nervous footman who alarmed the bishop by the sudden announcement ‘Grace, your Grouse’ is fit mate to the story of the restaurant guest who scandalized the waitress by requesting ‘soft toes on roast at once.’ ”