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Spoonerisms: You Have Tasted a Whole Worm!

Here are some sentences:

You have hissed my mistery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm.

Noble tons of soil

Work is the course of drinking classes.

Three cheers for our queer old dean!

The copyright of these sentences go to Dr. William Archibald Spooner (1844 – 1930), who was an Oxford don and warden of New College in Oxford.

Dr. Spooner had this little trouble of switching two identical words or sounds when he spoke. All those early sentences were told by him on formal occasions, though when he said them, the words just got switched and became what they are. These below are the correct forms:

You have missed my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term.

Drink is the course of working classes.

Three cheers for our dear old queen! (Said, when he raised his wine glass to Queen Victoria. Dear old queen must have laughed her brain out.)

These sentences made Dr. Spooner famous, as a new term itself was coined and included in the dictionary from his name, to mean these slips of tongue, spoonerism. This is the accidental transposition of words or sounds in spoken discourse.

Here are some more of the famous quotes from Dr. Spooner.

The lord is a shoving leopard (loving shepherd).

When our boys return from France, we will have the hags flung out (flags hung out).

It is now kisstomary to cuss the bride. (He ended his wedding by saying this.)

Is the bean dizzy. (Is the dean busy? Dr. Spooner said this when he called on the college dean, before he [Dr. Spooner] became the dean.

Blushing crow.

Well-boiled icicle (well-oiled bicycle).

Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed.

Go and shake a tower (take a shower).

Dr. Spooner, a typical confused professor, was a peculiar albino and with an unsuitably large head. He was an amicable, approachable academic with a highly learned mind prone to too many of such mistakes—results of his absentmindedness. In one sermon he made, he replaced St. Paul, the subject of his sermon to Aristotle. After the speech was finished, he allegedly said, “Did I say Aristotle? I meant St. Paul.”

In another incident, Dr. Spooner wrote a note to his fellow staff to see him immediately; the note had a postscript saying that the problem was solved and the staff no longer had to meet him ‘immediately.’

History Today

In 1858, John Meade Faulkner, English novelist, was born.

Theodore Sorenson, American writer, was born in 1928.

Friends, I am duly changing the font size from the old Verdana 8pt to Verdana 10pt from today’s post onward. The older posts will reflect the change in the coming days.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. Informative and entertaining.

    I wonder however, if Dr. Spooner didn't mean "Drink was the curse of the working classes" and said "Work was the curse of the drinking classes." Both course and curse work, but curse seems more poignant, no?

  2. Yes, very interesting indeed. Most of his comments seem like they are made up, and well-made to be honest. Thanks for your comment'


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