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humor: nov 19 -- Tips of the Slung / Spoonerisms
Nick's G-Rated Humor List
Rear Deeders, how your beds. Let us salute the eponymous master
of the verbal somersault, the Rev. William Archibald Spooner. He left us
all a legacy of laughter.
He also gave the dictionary a new entry: SPOONERISM. The very
word brings a smile. It refers to the linguistic flip-flops that turn
"a well-oiled bicycle" into "a well-boiled icicle" and other ludicrous
ways speakers of English get their mix all talked up.
English is a fertile soil for spoonerisms, as author and lecturer
Richard Lederer points out, because our language has more than three
times as many words as any other--616,500 and growing at 450 a year.
Consequently, there's a greater chance that any accidental transposition
of letters or syllables will produce rhyming substitutes that still make
"Spooner," says Lederer, "gave us tinglish errors and English terrors
at the same time."
Born in 1844 in London, Spooner became an Angelican priest and
a scholar. During a 60-year association with Oxford University, he
lectured in history, philosophy, and divinity. from 1876 to 1889, he
served as a dean, and from 1903 to 1924 as warden, or president.
Spooner was an albino, small, with a pink face, poor eyesight,
and a head too large for his body. His reputation was that of a genial,
kindly, hospitable man.
He seems also to have been somewhat of an absent-minded professor.
He once invited a faculty member to tea "to welcome our new archeology
"But, sir," the man replied, "I AM our new archeology Fellow."
"Never mind," Spooner said, "Come all the same."
After a Sunday service he turned back to the pulpit and informed
his student audience: "In the sermon I have just preached, whenever I said
Aristotle, I meant St. Paul."
But Spooner was no featherbrain. In fact his mind was so nimble his
tongue couldn't keep up. The Greeks had a word for this type of impediment
long before Spooner was born: METATHESIS. It means the act of switching
things around. Reverend Spooner's tendency to get words and sounds crossed
up could happen at any time, but especially when he was agitated. He
reprimanded one student for "fighting a liar in the quadrangle" and another
who "hissed my mystery lecture." To the latter he added in disgust, "You
have tasted two worms."
Patriotic fervor excited Spooner as well. He raised his toast to Her
Highness Victoria: "Three cheers for our queer old dean!"
During WWI he reassured his students, "When our boys come home
from France, we will have the hags flung out." and he lionized Britian's
farmers as "noble tons of soil."
His goofs at chapel were legendary. "Our Lord is a shoving leopard,"
he once intoned. He quoted I Corinthians 13:12 as, "For now we see
through a dark, glassly..."
Officiating at a wedding, he prompted a hesitant bridegroom,
"Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride."
And to a stranger seated in the wrong place: "I believe you're
occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?"
Did Spooner really say, "Which of us has not felt in his heart
a half-warmed fish?" he certainly could have--he was trying to say
Lederer offers these other authentic spoonerisms: At a naval review
Spooner marveled at "this vast display of cattle ships and bruisers."
To a school official's secretary: "Is the bean dizzy?"
Visiting a friend's country cottage: "You have a nosey little crook
Two years before his death in 1930 at age 86, Spooner told an
interviewer he could recall only one of his trademark fluffs. It was
one he made announcing the hymn "Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take,"
meaning to say "Conquering Kings."
So if you have made a verbal slip, rest easy. Many have.
Radio announcer Harry Von Zell once introduced the president as
Hoobert Heever. And Lowell Thomas presented British minister Sir
Stafford Cripps and Sir Stifford Craps.
Thanks to Reverend Spooner's style-setting sommersaults, our own
little tips of the slung will not be looked upon as the embarrassing
babblings of a nitwit, but rather the whimsical lapses of a nimble brain.
So let us applaud that gentle man who lent his tame to the nerm. May
sod rest his goal.
(Reader's Digest Feb 95)
Taken from the GROANERS mailings
of Stan Kegel <email@example.com>
What's the difference between an angry
crowd and a cow with a sore throat?
One boos madly,
and the other moos badly.
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