Curtis Honeycutt: The Grammar Guy | Spooner or later, you'll make this verbal mistake

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Today, we're going to be spalking toonerisms. I mean "talking spoonerisms." I'm afraid I just illustrated my point.

A spoonerism is a slip of the tongue where the speaker inadvertently swaps the consonants or vowels in a phrase.

The term gets its name from the Rev. William Archibald Spooner, who served as a dean and lecturer at Oxford College in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I identify with Spooner, as he has been described as "an albino, small, with a pink face, poor eyesight and a head too large for his body."

W.A. Spooner became known for his absent-mindedness and slips of the tongue (or tips of the slongue). He was quoted as saying such things as, "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride," and, "Mardon me, padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?"

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While at Oxford, Spooner once asked, "Is the bean dizzy?" I'm sure he was a nice old guy, but he only gets remembered in history for his verbal gaffes. If he were around in 2020, I would advise him not to run for president.

What are some modern spoonerisms? Well, I certainly don't want you to think I have drain bamage or anything, but I'm thinking of taking a trip to Ferris, Prance, once Americans are allowed to travel again. Until I can travel far, I think I'll just take my well-boiled icicle for a stroll down the street. When you find yourself sneezing, it's a good idea to know your blows (at least many thinkle peep so).

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You can see how easy it is to get your tongue all nied up in tots.

While it's ridiculous to read spoonerisms in print, they're easy to utter when your thoughts get ahead of your mouth. Other terms for spoonerism are "metaphasis" and "marrowsky."

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I think "Marrowsky" would be a great name for a football coach who gets his words mixed up.

The easiest way to avoid tripping up with your words like this is to pause, take a breath and gather your thoughts before you deliver your point. After all, you don't want to get accused of having mad banners.

Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of "Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life." Find more at


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