Spoonfuls of rumor

Yes, Jack, I do ride a boiled icicle.

Brother Jack was anxious to point out that the nasty word in his comment on Hillary Clinton was a spoonerism that had accidentally slipped out, and we failed to see this only because he had omitted the necessary second half.  He feels that others just don’t share his sense of humor, and wrote to me: “I’m sure you ride a well boiled icicle, or is American humor just different from British?”  Kinda silly, since Spooner was an Oxford professor.

There are folk who circulate lists of puns and other jokes by email, and online you can find weary catalogues of spoonerisms, including the classics attributed to Spooner himself such as that well-used icicle and “You have hissed my mystery lectures and tasted a whole worm; go home by the town drain.”  I like spoonerisms because they not only are funny but can be analysed by transformational grammar, and they sometimes slip out of me too.  I have my own collection, mercifully short, of examples that you won’t find elsewhere.

“Let’s wait and let the bear ed.”  -: Tilly, meaning “let the bed air.”  Could also be “bet the air lead.”

“The only know I way to get there…”  -: I, for “The only way I know…”  Example of a whole-word spoonerism, that is, transposition of words rather than phonemes.

“Call Pox.”  -: I, meaning “Call Paul Cox.”  A telescoped spoonerism.

Suggested:  “The Caliversity of Uniformia.”  “I fed hell first.”


9 thoughts on “Spoonfuls of rumor”

  1. I’m relieved to read the explanation of Jack’s comment. I was sure that there had to be a reasonable explanation but I had no idea what it might be. My own writing ability is lacking enough that I often make myself clearly misunderstood!

  2. What was the original quote for which this response is directed? I made it to the other thread late to add my two cents after everyone else had left. However, not knowing the context AND content of the original blurb in question, this follow-up has a sense of detachment.

    1. The antecedent was a comment by Jack Gambino to my post, now about five back, http://universalworkshop.com/guysblog/2016/11/09/wrong-way-world/

      He used an obscene word about Hillary Clinton; it appeared to be a mere invented pun, possibly even an inadvertency, since Jack isn’t the most careful of writers. At first I thought I needn’t suppress it, since it was only one word and applied to an individual, unlike the previous comment I did suppress, because it included a long racist diatribe. And like some other comments, it could be left to discredit itself without answer. I was later persuaded by the reactions of others that the word was offensive enough that it should indeed be deleted from the record.

      I mentioned then that Jack defended his word by saying it was only the first half of a spoonerism. He has taken me to mean that I agree that this justifies the word. He didn’t read carefully enough. I don’t.

      Connotations of words like this arise because we unusual animals have evolved peculiar emotions about parts of the body. There’s nothing intrinsically obscene about this or that part of the body. But we have these emotions and have to navigate around them. There was nothing intrinsically nasty about the word that is now forbidden to be applied to African Americans; it was almost identical with the Latin word for “black”. But anyone who uses it now has a nasty intent.

  3. Thank you , Guy, so much for this , perhaps, redemptory blog. You’re correct; had I added the second portion of that awful epithet, it might not have caused such a stir. So again, I apologize. Colorwheel, it took me a while to finally get your last one, but now that I do, I laugh; something we should all do a little more.

    1. Jack, I reacted to the derogatory and reductionist intent, and I maintain it was there, even if the word slipped out accidentally.

  4. Our family has a thing for spoonerisms. There are a lot of good ones in baseball, “burst face”, “ming and a Swiss”, “the gunner is rowing” “whack to the ball and he cakes the match” & tons more….. but my best spoonerism over the past few years was “Ass fed bangus grief.”

  5. Thank you for the post. I had to look up the word “spoonerism”.
    In French we have a close relative we call “contrepèterie” and the hidden meaning is normally a mildly obscene sentence. The newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné (“Hebdomadaire satirique paraissant le mercredi”), which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, has a regular column called “sur l’album de la comtesse” featuring a few contrepèteries from its readers.
    They are sometimes difficult to figure out, and probably near impossible for a non-native speaker.

    1. Q. Why won’t a Frenchman eat two eggs for breakfast?
      A. Because one is enough (un oeuf)

Leave a Reply to François Desvallées Cancel reply