Snopestionary: What is a Spoonerism?

This merbal vistake gets its name from a long-serving don at Oxford University.

Published Jan 23, 2022

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The term “spoonerism” refers to the transposition of the initial sound of two or more words. It was named after William Archibald Spooner, a priest and long-serving don at Oxford University who would, on occasion, accidentally utter unintentionally humorous phrases, such as “it is kisstomary to cuss the bride” (it is customary to kiss the bride), “You have hissed all my mystery lectures” (you have missed all my history lectures) and “you have tasted two worms” (you have wasted two terms). While spoonerisms are truly named after Spooner, not all of the phrases attributed to him have been verified.

In 1902, the Chicago Tribune reported on Spooner's benchant for plunders, noting that some of the professor's famous phrases may have been invented by his students.

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Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.