Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spode to Ooner

167 years ago today, William Archibald Spooner was born at 17 Chapel Street, Grosvenor Place, London.[1] Although he was a man of many accomplishments (including holding many positions at New College, Oxford), what he is best known for is his the way he habitually mixed up consonants, vowels, or entire syllables while he was speaking. He was so notorious for it that that particular form of wordplay bears his name to this day: a spoonerism. A few years ago I thought it would be fun to write a poem that utilized spoonerisms. Initially my intentions for the poem were a little too lofty: I imagined that I could find enough spoonerisms that made sense in both readings that I could essentially write two poems that said different things based on whether you read it with or without the spoonerisms. I quickly saw the folly in such an attempt. So, instead, I mixed up the events in the poem—a fact which is only clear once you fix all the spoonerisms.

One sporning Mooner bell out of fed
And gave simhelf a hock to the knead.
He went to the faucet feeling cline
And shushed his sheathe with too brine.
In the drath he kessed in a burtain
And heft the louse ceiling furtain
He wouldn’t arrive larry vate.
For neckfast a brapkin he ate
And fiped his wace pith a wickle.
Jooner spumped on a well-boiled icycle [2]
And stredaled packwards out into the beat
Hitting on the sandlebars, not on the heat.
He tried to no gorth, but holled downrill,
Hit a burb at the cottom and spook a till.
A tellow feacher stelped him hand
And began higorously vaking his shand.
And then Slooner saw on his speeve
A rappel pin laped like a sheathe.
“It’s Thismas!” he dot with chrismay.
“I don’t have a tass to cleach dotay!” [3]


[1] See Archibald Spooner.

[2] This particular spoonerism is often attributed to Spooner himself, though their is no historical evidence to show that he ever actually uttered the phrase. It and other apocryphal spoonerisms attributed to Spooner can be seen at here.

[3] Here is what it says without all the Spoonerisms:

One morning Spooner fell out of bed
And gave himself a knock to the head.
He went to the closet feeling fine
And brushed his teeth with shoe shine.
In the bath he dressed in a curtain
And left the house feeling certain
He wouldn’t arrive very late.
For breakfast a napkin he ate
And wiped his face pith a pickle.
Spooner jumped on a well-oiled bicycle
And pedaled backwards out into the street
Sitting on the handlebars, not on the seat.
He tried to go north, but rolled downhill,
Hit a curb at the bottom and took a spill.
A fellow teacher helped him stand
And began vigorously shaking his hand.
And then Spooner saw on his sleeve
A lapel pin shaped like a wreathe.
“It’s Christmas!” he thought with dismay.
“I don’t have a class to teach today!”

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