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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

A Word A Day — spoonerism

July 30, 2012

Word of the Day

  • spoonerism
  • audio pronunciation
  • \SPOO-nuh-riz-um\


: a transposition of usually initial sounds of two or more words

Children will be delighted by Jon Scieszka's use of wordplay in Baloney (Henry P.), including the spoonerism "sighing flossers" for "flying saucers."

"Thursday afternoon, Barack Obama presided over the unveiling of George W. Bush's official portrait in the White House, a warm event that reminds us: It feels like years since President Dubya regaled the world with his famous spoonerisms. His retirement has been defined by an awkward silence. While John McCain's endorsement was trumpeted by Mitt Romney, Bush delivered his in just four words. ‘I'm for Mitt Romney,’ he shouted to a journalist as an elevator door closed between them. If, just for old time's sake, Bush had said, ‘I'm for Ritt Momney,’ it would have been perfect." — From an article in CNN Wire, June 1, 2012


Poor William Archibald Spooner! That British clergyman and educator, who lived from 1844 to 1930, often had to speak in public, but he was a nervous man and his tongue frequently got tangled up. He would say things like "a blushing crow" when he meant "a crushing blow." Spooner's letter reversals became the stuff of legend—and undoubtedly gave his listeners many a laugh. By1900 his name had inspired the term "spoonerism," which lives on to this day.

From Merriam-Webster Online at

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.