1. Home

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Most Emailed Articles

Free Online Spell Check

"The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them." - Frank A. Clark

A Well-Boiled Icicle.
Spoonerisms and the man who made them.

Best remembered for transposing letters...

The Reverend William Archibald Spooner is best remembered, not for being head of an Oxford college (1903-1924) but for his supposed habit of transposing letters of words producing what have come to be called 'SPOONERISMS'. Though he did occasionally fall into metaphasis (the technical term for the transposition of sounds), it's doubtful that Spooner created all the spoonerisms credited to him. He also resented being associated with this quirk.

Kinquering Kongs...

Spooner admitted to giving out a hymn in chapel as 'Kinquering Kongs' but denied all the rest. Witnesses claimed to have heard him say 'In a dark, glassly' and 'The weight of rages will press harder and harder upon the employer.' Others, including Julian Huxley and Arnold Toynbee, knew him to confuse ideas if not words. Upsetting a salt-cellar, Spooner poured wine, drop by drop, on the spilled salt.

Our queer Dean...

In the 1890's, undergraduates at Oxford took up the idea of spoonerisms when Spooner was a Fellow of New College. Many believe they created most of the spoonerisms that have since been attributed to him:
I have in my bosom a half-warmed fish.
A toast which needs no commendation from me- our queer Dean.
A well boiled icicle.
A blushing crow
The Lord is a shoving leopard.
Please sew me to another sheet. Someone is occupewing my pie.

Metaphasis predates Spooner...

Though letter and sound transposition now bears Warden Spooner's name, the habit is found in Henry Peacham's Complete Gentleman (1622) and in Cuthbert Bede's Further Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1854). In Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, Grumio says, 'The oats have eaten the horses.'

Now a game of wordplay...

Though accidental to begin with, letter/sound transposition developed into a deliberate form of wordplay.
Oscar Wilde: Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
Adlai Stevenson's response to Norman Peale, while campaigning in Minnesota: I found St. Paul appealing and Peale appalling.

Next Feature

As a game, spoonerisms take two main forms.

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this article then you'll want to read "The Oxford Guide To Word Games" by Tony Augarde.

The Puzzles Forum is the place to pose puzzling questions and participate in puzzling discussions. To sample the forum, click any of the links below and sign in with the "guest" button: Requires Netscape or IE version 4.0 or later.

Subscribe to The Puzzler's Newsletter

I hope you'll be a regular visitor to this site.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

With your input this puzzle site will be a growing success.

Until next time, HAPPY PUZZLING!
a puzzler's pencil dies young

All graphics are © Dave Fisher unless otherwise noted.

Previous Features

See More About

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.