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"You're not here for my sermon, you just want me to say one of those... things."
Reverend Spooner, to a larger crowd than usual.

Spoonerisms - named for the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an Oxford don who actually claimed to have only made one spoonerism in his life (calling a hymn "The Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take"). At its simplest, it's simply mixing up the first letter or sound of two words, so that Hilarity Ensues. It's generally meant to appear accidental, either as a result of falking too tast, or tea many martoonis.

It can also, as in that last example, involve mixing up sounds from the middles or ends of words. (This is also known as Kniferism and Forkerism.) It can also involve more than two words, tut bat's amfully awbitious true thigh.

Extra points if the spoonerism still makes sense, just not the sense you would want to make. Spoonerisms can also be used by cunning writers as a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar, especially when it comes to Muntry Catters.

Characters who speak entirely in these are likely to become Verbal Ticked. See also Malaproper.

Has nothing to do with Spoony Bards. Or Spoony, or Funny Spoon.

Examples of Spoonerism include:


Advertising

  • An old advert for Trebor Extra Strong Mints ran with this. Apparently they make your dung tizzy.


Comedy

  • Either Dorothy Parker, W. C. Fields, Groucho Marx, or Tom Waits said, "I'd rather have a bottle in front o' me than a frontal lobotomy."
    • Which Dean Martin developed into "I would rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy."
    • The line apparently has a long and mysterious history. Radio comedian Fred Allen and television comedian Steve Allen have also been credited with having come up with it.
  • Lirty Dies from Capitol Steps has this as the point of the character. He simply delivers a long monologue with at least one spoonerism per sentence. In addition, proper nouns that were spoonerized (i.e. all of them) retain their new name throughout the sketch (For example, after refering to that Madman Saddam as that Sadman Maddam, he called him Maddam the whole routine). Made even more impressive by how most of the spoonerism make more sense than just being silly. He also engages in liberals amounts of Getting Crap Past the Radar by simply spoonerizing the dirty word.
    • Occasionally, the Lirty Dies dialogue will subvert this trope for fun, using alliteration (e.g. "those accountants and attorneys at Arthur Anderson"). And then Shamplade it.

  Do you think I'm crazy enough to flip the words "Forty Bucks?"

  • Terry Foy (or is it Ferry Toy?) spoonerised certain Tairy Fales--I mean, Fairy Tales, for hilarious results. One example: "Loldigocks was falking through the worest." Sound that out in your mind.
    • Archie Campbell did the same thing with Rindercella and The Pee Little Thriggs.
  • Jack Ross had a Top 20 hit in 1962 with a comedy/novelty record relating the tale of "Cinderella" and consisting of these. Listen to it here.
  • The entire 10,840 word long joke "Lost in the Desert" is a set up for the phrase " Better Nate Than Lever" to be said in a way that makes sense in context.


Comic Books

  • A quirky scientist character in one of Don Rosa's old comics (who invents a universal solvent, which would later be recycled in an Uncle Scrooge story) speaks in near-constant spoonerisms. This becomes particularly embarrassing when he tries to call the president a "smart fella".


Film


Literature

  • The book The Big Joke Game had fun with Spoonerism.
  • Shel Silverstein wrote an entire book around this concept: Runny Babbit.
  • The Sheriff, in Robert McCloskey's children's books Homer Price and Centerburg Tales, is all about this trope.
  • In Jingo, Sgt. Colon reminisces about his military years with the "Pheasant Pluckers", a regiment nicknamed for how they'd stolen poultry from a noble's estate. Angua nearly laughs herself sick when he muses aloud that lots of people seemed unable to pronounce this nickname...
  • Paul Jennings, along with Ted Greenwood and Terry Denton, are responsible for a book just full of these. The title? Spooner or Later. The authors' names are even spoonerised on the back of the book. It also qualifies as a Hurricane of Puns.
  • Gruntan Kurdly, villainous barbarian warlord of the Redwall installment Eulalia, slips up when trying to say "give 'em blood and thunder". When someone calls him on it, he declares that he meant to do it because "Thud and Blunder" sounds better, and threatens his followers into agreeing.
  • "The Three-Martini Debate" by Christopher Buckley:

 Bush: Seems to me the last Diberal Lemocrat, capital "D," capital "L," we elected was also anti-Martini.

  • So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld has a series of commercials with this as their gimmick. A man orders a "Lack of ram with keys and parrots", among other things.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, Howl professes to be "cone sold stober".


Live Action TV

 Interviewer: Ring Kichard the Thrid? Surely that's not an anagram, it's a spoonerism.

Man who etc: If you're gonna split hairs I'm gonna piss off. (exit)

  • Ronnie Barker played the Reverend Spooner (after whom spoonerisms were named) in at least two Two Ronnies sketches.
  • On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart described something as a "cunch to the punt," after hearing about someone who criticized someone for saying "ass backwards" instead of "bass ackwards." He immediately wished he had said "a dunch to the pick."
  • Kenny Everett had a character called Cupid Stunt, although for understandable reasons her surname never appeared in official BBC publicity.
  • In Action, when Peter's character finds out his ex-wife is pregnant with his baby while bearding for a closeted gay film executive. ...she tells him he can't tell anyone:

 Ex-wife: Peter, my husband doesn't want the world to know that you perform all of his vaginal stunts.

Peter: And what a cunning stunt you are.

  • Princess Melora from The Muppets' 1971 TV special "The Frog Prince" was cursed to speak like this:

 Melora: Bake the hall in the candle of her brain![1].

  • An episode of That 70s Show has a drunk Jackie Burkhart do this with her own name:

 Jackie: Ah, come back here! Nobody ignores Jerky Backhart!

 Sean Connery: What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck and I forget the rest but your mother's a whore.

  • On The Nanny, Niles does one of these when he's flustered upon meeting Elizabeth Taylor, introducing himself as "Biles the nutler."
  • When introducing himself on an episode of Password, celebrity guest Bill Cullen told America that "we're all here to pass Playword." Announcer Jack Clark laughed and then introduced the show as Playword himself, and then host Allen Ludden jokingly gave Bill a hard time about it.
  • While guest hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks, James Blunt referred to the singer of his song "You're Beautiful" as "James Cucking Funt".


Music

  • Metallica pranked their fans by naming their first live DVD Cunning Stunts, with the expectation that people would goof it up.
    • Before Metallica did it, The Cows and Caravan both had albums called Cunning Stunts. It is kind of an old joke in general though.
  • NOFX had an album called "Punk in Drublic," a pun on being drunk and mispronouncing words.
  • Wheatus' Suck Fony: It was actually a re-release of a previous album they felt was screwed by the label, hence the very thinly veiled Take That.
  • Toby Keith's "American Ride" has the line "the fit's gonna hit the shan."
    • Robbers On High Street's "Spanish Teeth" has the same spoonerism with the lines "Do you remember where it all began / Before the fit ever hit the shan?"
  • Jasper Carrott, a well-known British comedian, once performed a song called 'Chastity Belt' that was chock-full of these. For example, 'Mentle Gaiden' and some other rather unsavoury ones like "The billy old sastard has yitted a Fale" or "Alas and alack I'm f...locked up forever"
  • The Aerosmith album Night in the Ruts.
  • George Strait's "The Chair" has "Well, thank you / Could I drink you a buy / Oh listen to me / What I mean is, can I buy you a drink".


Radio

  • BBC Radio's The Burkiss Way had a throwaway line about Friar Tuck being threatened with a spoonerism.
    • Clement Freud liked to make similar Friar Tuck references on Just a Minute.
  • Radio announcer Harry von Zell referred to the president as "Hoobert Heever".
  • The "Drear Pooson" incident on The Jack Benny Program.
  • Implied in an episode of Hello Cheeky.

 Tim: And now I'd like to introduce the Kent-Hunt Cup...but I daren't.


Theater

  • In Tom Stoppard's On The Razzle (which is an adaptation of Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen, which was also adapted by Thorton Wilder as The Matchmaker, which was adapted by Michael Stewart And Jerry Herman as Hello, Dolly!!...where was I? Oh, yes...) Zangler, the shop owner does this regularly, usually, but not always correcting himself. Par Exemplum...

 Do you suppose I'd let my airedale be hounded up hill and-my heiress be mounted up hill and bank by a truffle-hound-be trifled with by a mountebank?

    • Or, he is helped out by another...

 Zangler: ...this is the first time Madame Knorr has had the privilege of being swept round the heap of my camp fire.

Christopher: That's very well put, chief.

Zangler: I don't mean the heap of my camp fire.

Christopher: Humped round the scene of your memoirs?

Zangler: No.

Christopher: Squired round the hub of your empire?

Zangler: That's the boy!

  • Briefly discussed in Mary, Mary, where Mary offers an anecdotal example from her life:

 Mary: I was buying a hammock for the porch at home. And in a crowded elevator I said, "Miss where do you have perch forniture?"

Dirk: Perch forniture?

Mary: Don't you know the unsuitable things that would go on in perch forniture?

  • State of the Union, when Mary has been drinking a bit too much:

 Grant: Mary, I'm on a spot here tonight. We both are. We have to be ready to do some quick thinking.

Mary: Don't worry about me. I'm a very thick quinker.


Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty had the famous "Fission Mailed" sequence.
  • The Infocom text-adventure game Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It featured a chapter of Spoonerisms. The player had to change a shoving leopard into a loving shepherd, a well-boiled icicle into a well-oiled bicycle, etc.
  • From Zork: Grand Inquisitor: "Your sword is blowing glue! ...wait, let me try that again."
  • From Mother 3: "The Funshine Sorest is on fire!"
  • Twilight Heroes has an entire quest, "A Dank and Rusty Mystery", which takes place in the Rank and Dusty Maze.
  • Rift: Some life invasions contain creatures called "Flutterbys."
  • In Beyond Good and Evil when Jade tells the IRIS password ("Safe and sound in its shell, the precious pearl is the slave of the currents") to the newspaper seller in the city, he thinks that it's a spoonerism. ("Cave of the slurrents?") This may be a reference to the early draft of the game script, where the rebel organization was called SPOON.


Web Comics


Western Animation

 Bart: Take him away, boys!

Chief Wiggum: Hey, I'm the chief here! Bake him away, toys!

Lou: What did you say Chief?

Chief Wiggum: Do what the kid says.

  • A signature trait of Zummi from Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
  • Also a frequent habit of Doc's, in Disney's Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. "What are you, and who are you doing?" is still funny today, but for different reasons.
  • Cool Mc-Cool, an obscure NBC Saturday morning cartoon from 1966 (created by Bob Kane, no less), has its title character with this verbal tic. To wit, after capturing arch-foe the Owl:

 Mc-Cool: For your crime, you'll get twenty years on word seed and butter. Er, bird seed and water.

  • Superfriends 1973/74 episode "The Balloon People". Dr. Noah Tall's assistant Twisty uses one of these in every sentence he speaks, and each time is corrected by Dr. Tall. By the end of the episode he has Dr. Tall doing it too.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Junkie Business" when Hank hires a drug addict. The junkie picks up the ringing phone responding, "Strickland Propane Taste the Heat, not the Meat." Hank quickly correct the slogan over the phone and is apparently Serious Business.
  • In the first Scooby Doo Movies guest starring Batman and Robin, there was a scientist who had invented a flying suit. However, he suffered from Spoonerisms greatly, sometimes calling his invention a "sighing flute".
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Out to Launch," Dr. Doofensmirtz says, "Well, it just shows to go ya."


Web Original

 Sure she lived in a big HARK DOUSE with her mean old MEP STOTHER and her two SISTY UGLERS and they made her do all the WORDY DIRK while they sat around CHEATING OCKLATES and MAGGING READAZINES....The next day [the prince] went from house to house but you can't turn that around.

  • AccuWeather.com's meteorologists must be glad they pre-record their forecasts; judging by all the spoonerisms that make it onto their blooper reel they would not do well on live TV...check out such gems as "saylight davings" and "thumb somderstorms" in this particular clip.
  • The Pharaoh in Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series is fond of using the phrase "Fan-tucking-fastic."
  • Done in one example of Not Always Right, which could could also count as a Freudian Slip:

 Customer: (While ordering popcorn at a movie theater) I'd like two boxes of cockporn, please.


Real Life

  • In Brazil, a Pun is known as a "trocadalho do carilho" - something along the lines of "a pucking fun".
  • Feel sorry for little Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Spoonerised, her name becomes Piloh Jolie-Shitt...that's going to be awkward when all her friends are old enough to work out Spoonerisms.
    • The Capitol Steps "Lirty Dies" skits already made fun of this one, in a subversion where he repeated the name "in straight talk" twice, then paused without completing the flipped version and exclaimed that they had named their child after a "Dile of pung!"
    • Or old enough to read this website. Whichever comes first.
  • There was a story in Reader's Digest some years back about a brilliant and beloved university professor who frequently spoke in spoonerisms because, according to the article, his mind worked so fast that his mouth simply couldn't keep up. Possibly the most charming incident the article related was when he addressed a woman who had taken his seat in chapel: "I beg your pardon, but you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to your sheet?"
    • It's generally attributed to Spooner himself, and goes "Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet."
    • Most of the "spoonerisms" attributed to Spooner are apocryphal, were said by someone else, or were invented. For example, there's no proof Spooner actually said "You've hissed all my mystery lectures and tasted two whole worms, and you will leave this college on the next town drain!" The only one he admitted to was saying the name of a hymn as "Kinkering Congs their titles take" instead of "Conquering Kings."
      • Genuine article or not, "the Lord is a shoving leopard" must be among the funniest attributed to the man.
  • It may be an urban legend, but there's a story about a senator/M.P. who called another a "shining wit", then apologized for the spoonerism.
  • A story told by Humphrey Lyttelton is that an interviewer asked him about being an amateur "orthinologist," and it wasn't until he was on his way home that he realized he should have said, "Not exactly an orthinologist, more of a word botcher."
  • Urban Dictionary describes "Nucking Futs" as "an improvement on an already sweet phrase".
  • Weather forecasters in the UK are sometimes heard to forecast "fost and frog".
  • A habit of Tracy Morgan, according to Tina Fey. Once referred to Jack Human and was puzzled when nobody understood him.
  • There was much hilarity recently at a BBC Radio 4 presenter's accidental spoonerism when discussing Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary. It's terribly unfair that the presenter will probably live it down well before Mr C-- Mr Hunt does.
  • A well-known joke: Q. What's the difference between the Barnum and Bailey Circus and a line of Playboy centerfolds? A. The circus is a cunning array of stunts...
    • Also, a well-known music joke: Q: What’s the difference between a seamstress and a soprano? A: The seamstress frills and tucks.
      • Alternate version for A: The seamstress tucks up the frills.
    • There's also: "What's the difference between a chiropractor and a drummer? The chiropractor bucks up your feet."
  • Naming your cat "Cooking Fat" so you don't even have to try to swear when drunk (works best with an accent.)
  • Zilch the Torysteller builds his entire act at the Renaissance Faire around this and it's hilarious.
  • Sean Connery is credited with this resolution to the proper pronunciation of “Celt” issue: If I’m a Selt, you’re a sunt.
  • ABC News presenter Joel Daly once said on-air that rumors of a presidential veto came from a "high white horse souse."
  • A traditional toast (sometimes attributed to Tom Waits): "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."

Notes

  1. Break the ball in the handle of her cane
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