Here’s the curious story of how the word spoonerism was invented.
The Reverend William Archibald Spooner was a highly-regarded scholar and warden of New College at England’s great Oxford University. Believe it or not, it was a mere slip of the tongue that started this dignified British clergyman on the road to eternal renown.
One day in a chapel, when announcing the name of a hymn, Spooner intended to say “Conquering Kings Their Titles Take.” But what came out was “Kinquering Kongs Their Titles Take.”
Although the members of the congregation probably maintained their composure, no doubt with considerable difficulty, from then on Spooner was a marked man.
- Oxford students quickly proceeded to manufacture other topsy-turvy expressions and hang them on the warden of New College.
- There is evidence, too, that Spooner went along with the joke and contributed some sterling examples of his own making. By about 1900, the word spoonerism had entered the language.
When Spooner died in 1930 at the age of eighty-six, The New York Times allotted his obituary nearly a full column crammed with choice examples of the literary curiosity bearing his name.
- At the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, said the Times, he was credited with calling for “three cheers for our queer old dean.”
- On a visit to the British fleet at Portsmouth, he was quoted as asking to go out and see the “cattleships and bruisers.”
- A student once noted that he had been rebuked by the warden for “fighting liars in the quadrangle,” and an entire class was scolded severly for “hissing my mystery lectures.”
- “It is kistomary to kiss the bride.”
- “A blushing crow.”
- “Those girls are sin twisters.”
- “I was hocked and shorrified.”
- “We each had tee martoonies.”
- “She joins this club over my bed doddy.”
- “He rode off on his well-boiled icicle.”
- “Mardon me, padam, you’re occupewing the wrong pie; let me sew you to another sheet.”