Spoonerisms: Getting Your Words Mixed Up


By Joe Saunders

As children, we gradually grasp of our language, learn how to use it properly and how to pronounce our words clearly and succinctly. This is usually the case, anyway, unless you’re like me and frequently suffer from a complete and utter brainmelt halfway through your speech, coming out with an embarrassing slip like ‘flat cap’ instead of ‘cat flap’, or ‘flutterby’ instead of ‘butterfly’. However, interestingly enough there’s a term for this linguistic phenomenon: named after William Archibald Spooner, such slips are known as ‘spoonerisms’. They involve the switching of sounds or syllables, typically between two-word phrases or compounds, giving an effect not entirely dissimilar from Cockney rhyming slang. As you would expect, it can create some rather odd combinations. A few examples are given below:

‘Car park’ –> ‘Par cark’ (Apparently this one featured particularly heavily in my childhood – oops.)

‘It’s pouring with rain’ –> ‘It’s roaring with pain’  

‘Cat flap’ –> ‘Flat cap’

‘Block of flats’ –> ‘Flock of bats’

‘I’m going to cook the chicken’ –> ‘I’m going to kick the chooken’ (A family favourite, this one.)

‘Bad salad’ –> ‘Sad ballad’

‘A pack of lies’ –> ‘A lack of pies’

‘Foul beast’ –> ‘Bowel feast’

‘Popcorn’ –> ‘Cop porn’

Spoonerisms are usually accidental, slipping out when your brain is running faster than your mouth, but if you want to be a true “Spoonerist” then you could always try a few in everyday speech. You might get a few weird looks, though.

Heard any spoonerisms recently? Give us a tweet or comment on our Pacebook fage!