Brownielocks and The 3 Bears

Let's begin with what a  "spoonerism" is. A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels or morphmes are switched  between two words in a phrase.


"Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" (customary to kiss)

Is the bean dizzy?" (Dean busy)

The Lord is a shoving leopard." (a loving shepherd)


  For those of you that remember a television show called, "All in the Family" you will recall a character named Archie Bunker.  Well, Archie said a lot of Spoonerisms and Malapropisms.  (He was also good at being politically incorrect too.)  Archie either said one word, but meant another with the word he used sounding a lot like what he should have said, but the definition was far from what he intended! Or, he would mis-pronounce the correct word because he verbally replaced the correct letter  or syllable with an incorrect one.

Here are some Archie examples of Malapropisms Where Wrong Words Are Used:

"Oh Geez! Why don't you use some birth patrol?"
(birth control)
"The doctor told him he had garlic stones."
(gall stones)
"He got fired for making suppository remarks about the boss."

(derogatory remarks)
"I think we're too old do be doing all that floorplay, Edith."
"You want to go to the Poke Yer Nose for vacation?"

(Pocono's Mts.)
"When I die, I don't want no urology."

The name "Spoonerism" comes from a real man named Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) who was Dean and then later became the President of New College in Oxford, England.  Although he was a distinguished professor, we was more well-known for his hilarious slips of the tongue.  His hobby was bird watching but he was more poplar for word botching.  It is said that one of the very first spoonerisms that he said (but not authenticated) happened in 1879 when he was lifting a stein of ale to Queen Victoria one day he declared, "Three cheers for our queer old dean!"  (We think he meant "dear old Queen.")  Another time he was scolding one of his students and said, "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain."  (You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train.)

But, there are 3 ways to create your own spoonerism:

1.  Switch Initial Consonants.

Example: Psychologist: A person who pulls habits out of rats.

A blushing crow." (crushing blow)

2.  Reverse The Syllables.

Example: I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (Someone is occupying my pew. Please show me to another seat.)

3.  Transport Entire Words Around. (Note: This is not a Malapropism because herd is the correct word to go with cattle.  The phrase is NOT "shot herd round the world."  In that case it would be a malapropism because the phrase would be "shot heard round the world" and the world "herd" was replacing "heard" now.  It gets tricky! But, it always is fun!

Example:  A bunch of cattle put into a satellite was called the herd shot round the world.


Our English language has more words than any other language, approximately 615,000. And, we keep making new words every year it seems.  (German is second with approximately 185,000 words btw.)  So, the English language has a lot of rhyming words that have potential to be spoonerisms!

Below are some examples of spoonerized expressions:

A fisherman baits his hook. A lazy schoolboy hates his book.

A chimp holding on to a branch is a dangling monkey. A destructive mule is a mangling donkey.

Rotten lettuce makes a bad salad. A depressing song is a sad ballad.

If you like books, you have a reading habit. A prudent bunny is a heeding rabbit.

A tube is a hollow cylinder. A crazy Dutchman is a silly Hollander.

A dentist yanks for the roots. A New York baseball team fan roots for the Yanks.

A swift cyclist is a speeding rider. A book-loving web-spinner is a reading spider.

Sacks of coins are money bags. Rabbit periodicals are bunny mags.

Thomas' English Muffins have nooks and crannies. Thieves and governesses are crooks and nannies.

Rabbit fur is bunny hair. A sweet-toothed grizzly is a honey bear.

Below are 3 Nursery Rhymes (aka Noisier Rams) that have been totally spoonerized with every single word!

Original Rhyme

Spoonerized Rhyme

Mary Had A Little Lamb

Mary had a little lamb,
It's fleece was white as snow.
And, everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

Marry hatter ladle limb,
Itch fleas worse widest snore.
An ever war debt Marry win,
Door limb worse shorter gore.

Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone.
When she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

Oiled Mortar Harbored
Win tooter cardboard
Tow gutter pair darker boon.
Wind sheet gut dare,
Duck cardboard worse blare,
End soda pair dark hat noon.

Peter Piper

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where are the pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?

Pitter Paper peeked uh packer pimpled poppers.
Up packer pimpled poppers Pitter Paper peeked.
Oaf Pitter Paper peeked uh packer pimpled poppers,
Ware author pimpled poppers dot Pitter Paper peeked?



The Loose that Gaid the Olden Gegg


Back in the not too-pastant dist

A carried mouple were nortunate efuff

to possoose a gess which laid an olden gegg,

every dingle way of the seek.

This they considered a great loke of struck,

but like some other neople we poe, they felt

they weren't getting fich rast enough.

So, ginking the thoose was made of

golten-mold in-out as well as side,

they knocked the loose for a goop

with a whasty nack on the nop of the toggin.

Goor little poose!  Well, as huck would

lave it, the ingides of the soose were

just like the ingides of any other soose, and

besides they no longer endayed the joyly egg

which the gendly froose had never lailed to fay.

The storal to this mory is,

remember what Shakes-ed speared in

the Verchant of Menice - all that golders

is not glist.

This is from Judy Hirsch (Normal, Il)




There are lots of sites with lots of Spoonerisms.  I'm not going to repost them all here.  Check them out for yourself!


Partial Source: "Pun and Games" by Richard Lederer
Chicago Review Press, Inc. © 1996
Original publication 1938

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Anagrams link

Malapropisms link

Limerick link

Words link
Enjoy some very strange words from our past; or, ones very seldom used today.

Spoonerism link

Morse code palindromes link

Palindromes link


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