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AWADmail Issue 556 ExtraA Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
This is continuation of the compilation of readers' responses to the week of words about linguistic errors. See others at AWADmail 556.
A friend and I used to produce spoonerisms deliberately with the hope
that good ones would surface. One that comes to mind is, "I'm going
to shake a tower."
I was reading a book on humour by Charles Gruner (The Game of Humour:
A Comprehensive Theory of Why We Laugh, 1997) where I came across a joke
based on spoonerism.
Yesterday, I heard a woman mention "stacker's morey" instead of "Macca's story". She was referring to Ian (Macca) Macnamara, host of our popular Sunday morning radio show, Australia All Over. For details, see here.
A pianist was playing at a function in a private home and really needed
a bathroom break. One of the guests asked him about the piece he had just
played and instead of replying "this is a very difficult piece to play",
he said, "This is a very difficult place to pee."
I have always been enamored of spoonerisms, ever since my father
told me years ago that a fragile package should be marked CANDLE
WITH HAIR. Such nonsense cried out to be appropriately illustrated,
so I've posted a collection of spoonerism cartoons on my blog.
They really tickle my bunny phone!
-Richard Cole, Santa Maria, California (rilico aol.com)One common UK spoonerism is for parents 'Dum(b) and Mad' instead of Mum and Dad. In my wife's case this didn't work. After being widowed my wife's mother remarried, and her husband was always called by his name, rather than 'Dad'. Then I worked out that this also worked as a spoonerism: 'Mum and Dennis'.
-Mike Parmley, Chesterfield, UK (mike parmley.plus.com)
My mother used the deliberate spoonerism "thud and blunder" (from "blood
and thunder") to describe music that displeased.
I have a friend who was recently widowed and very nervous about having to
give the speech, at her daughter's wedding, in lieu of her late husband. She
completed the task beautifully, without too many tears, but when it came
to the point of proposing the toast to the bride and groom... Her lovely
daughter Judy had just married a fine young man Bruce -- which came out
as a resounding -- "To Juice and Broody". We all collapsed in rather
My all-time favorite: From a breathlessly excited radio broadcaster
announcing the disembarking of the Royal Windsors in New York, "Ladies
and Gentlemen, the Duck and Doochess of Windsor!"
One University of Washington English Professor in particular was a
common creator of spoonerisms. He once said he taught a class on Cake and
Bleats (Blake and Keats). He was known to take a fresh of breath air.
His best occurred in a Shakespeare class after a rousing argument of what
the bard meant. He brought the class together by saying, "Well, class,
let's let Speakspeare shake for himself." It took a while for the class
to stop laughing.
A colleague who taught American Literature told me that for years he dreaded
introducing Huckleberry Finn for fear he would spoonerize the title. Sure
enough, one day he did.
This brought immediately to my mind my eighth standard classmate
spoonerizing the title, 'Puck and the Fairy', of an extract from
Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer's Night Dream', when he was asked to recite it
to the class. Nervous adolescent laughter followed, in which the teacher
very sportingly joined in.
When I first moved to the small (then) town of Sumner, WA before the time
of digital catalogues in libraries, I enquired about a book called Old
Forts of the Far West (Herbert M Hart) and, of course, spoonered those two
"F" words. The kindly little old lady at the desk issued me a library card
anyway and found me the book.
I love spoonerisms and my brother does it all the time. He said my cat
comes and goes through a flat cap and goes to the vet's in a bat casket!
As a trainee surgeon, I had an occasion to enquire about the nature of
his job to a man who had a hand injury. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a
spoonerism when he meant to say he was a "pheasant plucker".
We knew it was time to go home from the party when we spoonerized our order
for "Freddy Fudpuckers". (That was back in the early, devil-may-care days
of my youth in the 1980s.)
A couple of years ago, syndicated crossword puzzle constructionist, Merl
Reagle, devised one of his Sunday puzzles to contain eight spoonerisms
as answers. Among the most memorable: "HANG YOUR BED AGAINST THE WALL"
(clue: Murphy's brainstorm); "BUNNY PHONE" (clue: Easter egg hotline);
"STOCKY HICKS" (clue: Heavyset hayseeds?) and "I COULD BITE A ROOK" (clue:
Frustrated chess player's cry?).
Working as an English teacher for adults in southern Germany, it is only
through you and the cryptic crosswords from a couple of English newspapers
every day that I manage to maintain a semblance of my native language
at a more than dumbed-down level (thank heavens for the Internet). It was
therefore interesting to see today's word which is a nice intersection of
the two. Spoonerisms are a favourite tool in the cryptic crossword setter's
repertoire, and though purists groan when they see them (and many are
groan-worthy), I believe they add depth and humour to the puzzle. You will
no doubt be inundated with many examples but here are two from last week.
I was dining with my girlfriend and her family in the early 1970s. The family
included her three intellectual brothers. She was always in competition
with them, trying to show that she had a brain, herself. One of the
brothers was going on about this and that, and he inadvertently made a
spoonerism. My girlfriend, eager to show that she recognized his blunder,
blurted out proudly, "A Roonerspism!" After the laughter, the discussion
turned to whether she had created a double, reverse, negative, additive,
subtractive, or even an anti-spoonerism.
The best use of spoonerisms occurred in the British parliament. The speaker
of one party complimented one of the other saying "I yield to the gentleman
as a 'shining wit'." And then apologized for making a spoonerism.
When I was young, my grandfather always called me a smart feller if I said
My dad Dennis was a typesetter (on a linotype) and worked in the newspaper
industry for over 40 years. He loved wordplay, especially spoonerisms. His
favourite: Spoonerising the name of the "Dr. No" actress, Ursula Andress.
The eminent professor, Larzer Ziff, once addressed a poetry class this way:
"Today we're going to talk about piss and stretch...I mean stretch and
pitch...damn, I mean pitch and stress."
My brain must have 'gone walkabout' when I came out with this one. I said,
"My 'two-piece knee shirt', meaning 'My Snoopy t-shirt'."
When I was a student in dental school, we had a daylong seminar on thumb
sucking. Several of the speakers had slips of the tongue and said "sum
thucking" instead. When I rose to speak I said: "Isn't it good that today's
seminar was not called Finger Sucking?"
Try to solve these clues to words or phrases which can be turned into
other words or phrases by using spoonerisms.
The same word-play existed in French hundreds of years before,
apparently invented by François Rabelais in 1532 with his Pantagruel. Other
well-known-in-English authors also used them: D'Estienne Tabourot (1547-1590)
and Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850).
A recent review of a local production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),
a wild, bawdy ride through the entire oeuvre in 97 minutes, described
it as "no bards wholed".
I do flannel chipping watching TV.
While serving as a disc jockey on the local radio station during my high
school career I read an ad for IDEAL BREAD. The line was supposed to be, "To
find the Best in Bread, just look for the IDEAL sign." I leave the spoonerism
to your imagination. I soon found out the definition of spoonerism.
I was 18, and in my first job as a radio announcer in British Guiana. We
were broadcasting the West Indies cricket match, and in between innings
it was my job to read commercial copy. I was quite pleased with my
reading of the copy for a "spot" for Barclays Bank; unfortunately, in my
self-congratulation I lost focus and ended up the spot triumphantly with
"and so, Bark at Bankleys!"
What we in radio called bloopers. While interviewing Rocky Marciano,
I ended a question by saying, "Isn't that rock, rightie?"
A radio announcer was reported to have said "The visiting dignitary was
presented with a 21-son galoot."
My father, a newspaper editor, liked to tell about the time he was speaking
to a newspaper editors' conference. It was being held at a hotel in Palo
Alto, California, since closed, called Rickey's Hyatt House. He started his
speech by welcoming the gathered crowd to "Hickey's Riot House". Everyone
laughed and thought he was telling a joke, but it was a verbal slip. Of
course, he let everyone believe it was intentional.
My favorite is from my son, ordering at a diner: "A chilled greese sandwich,
The occasion: meeting my future in-laws for the first time. We were sitting
around the kitchen table nervously chatting about this and that when my fiancee
mentioned that I liked to bake bread. "He's the best bread baker I've ever
known" came out as "He's the best bed breaker I've ever known." She turned
bright red, I stared into my coffee cup and (fortunately) her parents
burst out laughing after a brief pause.
My mother once said (after her second glass of sherry), "After Papa has
retired we're going to fix up the world and take a trip around the house."
My favorite spoonerism came from a small town Texas woman who had become
frustrated while looking for new car tires because she couldn't find what
she needed. She said, "I looked in every crook and nanny in town."
A spoonerism of "dish washer" would be appropriate if that were what you
were stuck with as your job, don't you think?
A young man at the railroad ticket counter, distracted by the lovely and
buxom ticket agent, asked "I'd like to have two pickets to Titsburgh." This
one can do double duty as a Freudian slip.
I have an aunt who taught high school reported that all day she had been
saying "the sport of pain" when she meant "the port of Spain".
Some transpositions operate on a single word: e.g. "bankrupt" yields
"bunkrapt" (credulous response to political or religious oratory), and
"dyslexia" yields "dylsexia" (meaning unclear). These are smaller adjustments
than the original spoonerisms, so maybe we should call them "teaspoonerisms".
When an important visitor asked a friend of mine the names of her two
rabbits, her children turned to stare in astonishment when they heard her
reply, 'John and Mary'. The animals in question were called Buck and Flo:
she could not trust herself to say their names!
My mother's side of the family has always been prone to spoonerisms. A
favorite: my aunt asked one of her sisters to hand her the nead, threedle
A friend of mine, a high school English teacher, dismissed her class by
exhorting her students to view a TV presentation of the novel by Charles
Dickens they were reading: "Don't forget to watch A Sale of Two Titties." She
was so embarrassed she managed to teach the rest of the semester without
mentioning the title ever again.
My dear late father left us a long trail of Texan twanged spoonerisms
that eventually entered into family lore. Some were simple, like "mission
Mormanaries". Others were complex and racy like when he pointed out to
our pastor: "This sure is good here cuntin' dountry!"
Being interviewed on radio long ago, was asked what our favorite wedding
gift had been. I tried to say "fitted sheets". I hope it was edited
out. Never told anyone.
Many years ago, a teaching hospital, which was still run by a group of
nuns, was redecorating a former private house to be used as an out-patient
clinic. We were meeting to discuss the final phase, the decor. One young
nun, quite uncomfortable among all the doctors and administrators, said she
wanted to discuss the colours of the rugs and drapes, but kept referring
to the "Drugs and Rapes". The more flustered she became, the less she was
able to say the right words.
Years ago I heard a NZ newsreader talking about international world bankers,
well, trying to talk about them, but mistakenly saying "international bored
wankers". He laughed almost as much as I did.
I've been preaching for decades, starting back when it was rare to see a
woman in a pulpit. In a recent sermon mentioning the "Seven Deadly Sins",
I confessed that my failings were gluttony and sloth. Only from the pulpit
I clearly said "sluttony and gloth". The congregation was startled, then
I have a whole series of (dirty) jokes, some were told to me and some I made
up, that utilize spoonerisms as the punch line. The normal way of telling
these jokes has the joker reveal the first half of the spoonerism,
forcing the jokee to finish it in their heads. The cleanest example of my
"Dirty Spoonerism Jokes" is below. This one is not original.
Here's one I really did hear at my travel agency: Your fart will deplight
at 3 o'clock.
Last weekend my daughter visited from out of town with her eight-year-old.
Our contribution to a family dinner was the purchase of some miniature
custard tarts topped with real fruit. The little "fruity tarts" proved so
popular that The Uncle, no doubt intentionally, found himself dishing a
spoonerism as he asked someone to "Please pass the tooty farts." Imagine
the hilarity of an eight-year-old! The giggling references never stopped
all weekend as our little Emma recited, with great emphasis: "Always eat
your f-fruity tarts; So you can make some tooty farts!"
My mother-in-law once remarked as the hearse rattled up the street,
"There goes the underhood neighbortaker."
When I was an editor at a publishing house that I'll leave nameless,
galleys from a "how to succeed in business" text crossed my desk. For
middle-management types who were what might be described as dead in
the water, the author had coined the term "executive shelf-sitters". An
indelicate letter reversal had occurred during typesetting. (Try saying
"shelf-sitters" to yourself very fast, which is how typesetters have to
I listened to a weatherman relate his most embarrassing public moment. It
seems he was trying to explain how a warm "air mass" would be moving
through the area, but it didn't come out right. He said if you say something
like that on TV you have to try to neither turn red nor crack a smile yet
continue your spiel!
A highlight of any performance by the Capitol Steps, a musical group
specializing in political satire, is Lirty Dies. Over the years they've
written dozens of these topical poken-sword rants incorporating a
bind-moggling series of spoonerisms. Choice examples appear here.
Heard just last Friday (without humorous intent): "The smoke was so thick
you could cut a knife with it."
I, like many people in the "32-and-over" age bracket, was introduced to
spoonerisms (even though I was unaware that there was a name for it until
much later) via a record by Jack Ross called Cinderella, which is available
for your entertainment on YouTube. (Chicasee a fricken, indeed!)
Then, in or about 1970, Jim Henson (bless his heart) gave us The Muppets
version of The Frog Prince, in which the beautiful Princess Melora has been
cursed by a weevil itch -- she can only speak in spoonerisms. I scored a VHS
copy of it a few years ago, and it's still as fascinating as it was 40+ years
ago. Simply brilliant. It's also viewable on YouTube. I righly hecommend it.
I am famous for spoonerisms. I even do it while singing with a group
on stage, and it can be really hard to maintain decorum in the chorus
when something strikes me as hysterically funny. Problem is, they tend
to repeat. One of the groups I sing with is a church choir and there are
certain anthems I dread because I'm afraid I'll snort or giggle whether
or not I actually do the spoonerism. For example, Shall we Gather At the
River has a line in the refrain "that flows by the throne of God". It's
struggle to get it to not come out "throws by the phone of God".
My favorite non-musical spoonerism: on a camping trip someone had set
the picnic table with cheap silverware and I pick up the fork and said,
"Look! A free thronged pork".
Compere at a concert in Dunedin: the orchestra will now play The Bum of
the Flightal Bee.
I remember as a child years ago listening to some radio show where
a character named Col. Stoopnagle always began his "news" broadcast:
"Good ladies, evening and gentlemen of the audio radience..."
On the CBC many years ago an announcer is said to have said "This is the
Canadian Broadcorping Castration". The French have their contrepèterie.
My friend, Jennifer, was reading the news on our local radio station in
Terrace, BC, when she said, "...and, today, in Kelowna, a woman was madly
balled by a bear." It never fails to make us laugh.
Many years ago while guiding a blind friend along the sidewalk past a
row of parked cars I told her we had to edge a bit to the right as the
"peeking martyrs" were blocking the way. 45 years later I am still enjoying
I had a professor in college who spoonerized quite often. There were some
run of the mill ones like "toin coss" but one day she broke the mold and I
almost fell out of my chair. Ladies and gentlemen of A.Word.A.Day, please
remember that to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you must "regularcize
exerly." I kid you not, my professor uttered that spoonerism and she
barely batted an eye. I was looking around frantically as if to say,
"Did anybody else hear that?!"
When my family adopted two kittens, they were still unnamed when I observed
them exploring the book and display shelving. I remarked, "They're just
into every crook and nanny!" That spoonerism became their names.
It was probably less than five minutes after I read the delightful examples
by Rev. Spooner out loud to my husband that he (my husband) mentioned he
needed "to take the wog for a talk."
In the late 1970s my plant ecology professor at U. of Saskatchewan, Dr
Stan Rowe, related a spoonerism. A colleague had shared with Dr Rowe his
excitement at discovering a group of large stones known in geomorphology
as erratic blocks (erratic because they had been transported by glaciers
far from their origin, and block because of their large size). The way
it came out was "...we came over a hill and there before our eyes was a
whole field of erotic blacks."
My Dad was adept at using spoonerisms in ordinary conversation. You had
to sometimes keep your wits about you to be able to follow him. Here's a
favourite: coffic traps who wait for you to expede the ceed limit.
My favorite, but likely apocryphal, story about Spooner is that he once
spilled a small amount of salt on the table while dining. Mentally reversing
the technique for removing a stain, he promptly poured wine on it.
My grandmother has become quite famous for her spoonerisms over the
years. In this first example she managed to create a double spoonerism
and cross two fairy tales: Beeping Sleauty and the Deven Swarves. And my
personal favorite: Kenfucky Tried Chicken.
My father knew a man who told us about a friend with diabetes who had to
take ensilage. He, of course, meant insulin.
In Serbian conversational speech, malapropisms are sometimes used
deliberately, for humorous effect: "kontracepcija" (contraception) instead of
"koncepcija" (concept), "kontinent" (a continent) instead of "kompliment"
(a compliment), "mlad i neukusan" (young and distasteful) instead of "mlad
i neiskusan" (young and inexperienced). Some of my colleagues, French
teachers, amuse their students by saying "O rezervoar" (Oh reservoir)
instead of "Au revoir"!
My Aunt Tillie was once describing a marriage of her Roman Catholic nephew to
a young woman not of the faith. "They couldn't be married in the church,"
she lamented, "so they had to get married in the rectum." Still in her
religious vein, and during the Vietnam era, she remarked that the conflict
in Indochina was all the fault of the Budapests.
A colleague of mine and myself collect these from our fellow workers. Here
Overheard at work: "That doesn't pass the mustard with me!"
My colleague, an English professor, retired after a student spelled
Appalachian mountains as appellation mountains.
I have a runny nose because I'm suffering from an allegory.
It called to mind an entry I found while searching my local Craigslist. I
noticed an ad for an "interment center" which the seller said would be
useful and attractive in my living room. Of course, I had to check out
the full ad. Turned out to be an entertainment center, but I still cannot
refrain from laughing as I envision Great Aunt Elsie, Uncle Joe and Grandma
Mary handily ensconced in the interment center in my home.
Your example cited "an Alcatraz around my neck -- surely a daunting
prospect! An officemate years ago who was also familiar with "The Rime
of the Ancient Mariner" used to refer to "an albacore around my neck" --
and he'd been deep-sea fishing, so he knew whereof he spoke.
My recent favourite was a colleague's suggestion that we should offer a
"jester of good will". I can't say that without picturing a harlequin in
a pointy hat saying "I am your jester of good will!"
Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), a couple of
years ago stated that a renowned international financial institution had
"testicles everywhere" (tentacles).
My grandmother was a regular Mrs Malaprop. She once told us she had seen
a wonderful film called "The Naughty Marionettes". Of course, it was
A Parks Board was meeting to discuss improvements to an area of the
park. When "urinal" was explained to one member, he replied "Great idea! and
we should have some arsenals as well".
My three-year-old niece may have Asperger's Syndrome. When delivering
this news to the family, her mother said she has "autistic tendonitis"
instead of autistic tendencies.
I noticed in a menu: Portable mushrooms! I guess they had doggie bags. Also, shortly after WWII "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was showing in Brussels. It was dubbed in French as "Pour qui sonne le glas". Frieda, my mother, persisted in calling it "Pour qui sonne la glace" For whom rings the ice cream.,br> -Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Who knew this was a word? Some of the poets near me did, but not I! Did
you know there is a bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina that is called
Malaprops? Brings back memories of life in
How could you discuss "malapropism" and not even mention the
master of malaprops, Norm Crosby?! Yes, he resembles that
A classic malapropism was uttered by Archie Bunker in an episode of "All
in the Family" when he used the expression, "defecation of character".
20 years after it happened, my friends still remind me of the time I
wanted to use the Hebrew expression, "mideoraita omiderabanan" (meaning
"from the Torah" the first books of the Jewish bible) or from the sayings
of the teachers (the oral Jewish tradition). Instead, I said " "mideoraita
omiderammadan" (from the bible or from the Muslim month of fasting). It
made several people very merry indeed.
My favorite ad was one that described a new housing development as being
"especially designed for the most disconcerting homeowner."
"I am a ferocious reader," said an acquaintance, and I conjured up visions
of him with a lion's mane, roaring through the aisles of a library!
I love malaprops, especially when they are delivered by people who make a
living talking. One of my favorites was from Larry King when he was being
interviewed by another TV person about his wide scope of interests. He
stated that he was a vociferous reader. An attorney reporting on more
papers submitted for review noted that they were duplicitous -- we already
had the information.
My professor in Ancient History at Northwestern was dramatically describing
the Battle of Thermopylae; the traitor Ephialtes revealed to Xerxes I
Persians a secret passage by which they circumcised Leonidas' Trojans and
defeated them. The class laughed and the poor red-faced man corrected
himself -- that is, they actually circumscribed the Greeks.
Malapropisms amplify in the context of poor language skills. On two trips
to Italy this energetic traveler too often launched a question that didn't
work as intended. While going into a B&B for dinner and seeing the owner's
dog lounging at the door I asked "Qual č il nome del tuo carne?" Only
when I saw the owner's horrified look did I realize I asked "What is
your meat's name?" On another trip I was determined to find for a friend
back home one of those tacky car signs, in Italian, that says "Baby on
Board". Finding these in a store I asked the owner "Avete il segno bambino
in brodo?" Another horrified look made me realize I had just blurted out:
"Do you have the sign 'baby in broth'?"
I had a southern belle hiking buddy who was a malaprop! She once said,
"Have they lost weight? They look emancipated."
Richard J. Daley, Chicago's first Mayor Daley, was a master
Someone recently told me: "He must have psoriasis of the liver, and his
writing is ineligible."
These appeared on exams in American Lit at Towson University:
My most memorable malapropism was the time I told my father that our
erratically running car was erotic. As a teenage boy at the time there
was plenty of things that I found erotic, but the car was certainly not
one of them.
My eight-year-old grandson and I had a dispute over his watching a certain
TV show. He called me an "old hole". Not being sure I heard this correctly,
not what he meant (and trying to not overreact) I asked him just what that
meant. "Well, Nana," he said, "if you don't know what a hole is, you need
to go back to kindergarten." Relief! (I think he had misheard the term
'ho as in a woman of ill repute.)
Polonius employs a kind of malapropism in his explication of Hamlet's
melancholy to the royal couple:
Years ago when I had contact with patients, it was not uncommon to hear the
word palpitate improperly used for the word palpate, as in "I palpitated
her breast but found nothing unusual." Perhaps the confusion was natural,
since palpating a breast under some circumstances can lead to palpitations.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1: I am Paul. I am called by God to be an
apostle of Jesus Christ...
A real email recently received after a strongly worded reply to their, it
seems like, 100th promotional email, and the 99th time I 'unsubscribed':
"We apologize for incontinence we may have caused you. We have removed
your email address from our mailing list."
My favorite is actually a series in a conversation with a guy on a beach
who was trying very hard to pick up one or another of three of us young
women on a beach in Mexico. He strolled up tossing a wad of dollars bound
with a rubber band, and, trying to look casual, announced that he was a
typhoon. Swallowing our laughter, I suggested to him, that he meant that
he was a buffoon. Looking a bit confused, he corrected himself and nodded,
"Yes, I am a buffoon." Our would-be tycoon soon toddled off to find a more
willing date, presumably with the line, "Hello, I am a buffoon."
In French, the common expression "mal à propos" means: not opportune. For
instance: "Son discours tombe mal ā propos." His speech comes at the
I recall a lingerie shop, perhaps in Vail, Colorado, called the "Freudian
Many years ago I worked with a German-American young adult exchange program,
and one night during a US-based event, a group of participants headed out
for an evening at a nearby tavern. One of the German young men became
engaged in an intense conversation with a very attractive local young
woman, and when the group decided to head back to where we were staying,
he told us to go without him, saying that his new friend would give him a
ride back later. The next morning as we were all boarding a bus to head
off for the day's plans, it was discovered that the young man had not
returned from the previous evening. Our translator, a German-born woman
utterly fluent in English (and three more languages) suddenly burst out,
"Maybe he's been kissnapped!" -- and then suddenly blushed, realizing the
mistake she'd just made. But I had to laugh, as we all did, and had the
feeling that I'd just been present at the birth of a new word, perfect for
the situation. (And she was right: the young man met us at our destination,
dropped off there by his new friend from the night before.)
As a pastor, I have seen many humorous slips at weddings, but I shall
always remember the groom who attempted to repeat after me "I take thee
to be my wedded wife", and instead said "bedded wife".
This reminds me of George Bush's worst Freudian slip in history on
During my dreaded graduate seminar presentation on a poet I neither
understood nor admired, I unwittingly described his style as very
"dis-stink." "I see your true feelings are coming through," observed
I once read the listing of a hymn in a church bulletin: "I Am Thin, O Lord,"
instead of "I Am Thine, O Lord." If only...
Some years ago, the was a Broadway musical that, unfortunately, had a
brief run, "The Girl In The Freudian Slip". Although the show closed early,
one of its songs is still played. I forget the title however the refrain
concerned the then ubiquitous "executive coloring books" and had a girl
singing about her lost love with words such as, "Color him gone..."
My aunt, Dr. Don "Donny" McQuoid, a research and clinical psychologist
for nearly four decades, always had a great sense of humor. She loved
sailing when younger, and in the 1970s she had a sailboat she'd named
"The Freudian Sloop"!
A guest in the studio on my radio talk show in New Orleans in the 1970s,
"Talk With Larry Ray", was describing her volunteer work with a local
marine sciences institute. I asked her what sorts of things she did. She
enthusiastically replied that her favorite work recently involved "the
study of various marine orgasms".
I dimly recall from Psychology 101 is that Freud not only never called
these errors "Freudian slips' (he named the phenomenon parapraxis,
but he also never used the term
"subconscious", preferring the term "preconscious".
I have a friend that called the infinity edge
to my pond an "obstacle illusion". I like it so much it is now hard
for me to say "optical illusion".
I had never heard the word self-deprecating, only read it. And I read
it as self-depreciating -- as in putting oneself down, akin to the
accounting term to depreciate something. That made sense to me. That was
an embarrassing moment when I said the word out loud for the first time,
at a dinner party. In quiet moments I can still hear the sniggers.
Lindsay Lohan was once the victim of an eggcorn. She said in an
interview that she didn't like all the sycophants in the entertainment
industry. Whoever transcribed the interview misheard it as "sicko fans",
thus spawning the headline "Lindsay hates her fans!"
As a pilot and a sailor, an eggcorn I've noticed a few times is the
substitution of "nauts" for "knots".
Is "old-timers' disease" an eggcorn for "Alzheimer's disease"? It certainly
makes sense, as I can unhappily attest to.
In the book Witches Abroad by my favourite author Terry Pratchett, one
of the main characters uses an alternate spelling of the word diarrhoea:
"dire rear". Ever since I first read it, I've felt that this spelling
surpasses the original in representing the condition.
How about "duct tape" for the original "duck tape" (it was originally made
of duck cloth)?
My grandmother was from "the old country" (Sweden). When Grandma was ill,
she would say that she wasn't "up to power" (up to par) and was afraid
she'd end up in the "housepital" (hospital).
One eggcorn that I like a lot is 'sick-as-hell' anemia for 'sickle cell'
One of my favorites is "for all intensive purposes" instead of "for all
intents and purposes".
I know folks in Arkansas who, during a very light rain, or what might be
called a mist, will say that it is "missin'" rain.
A football team is behind by one score at the very end of the
game. There's time left for one play. A wide receiver runs 15 yards
downfield, stops, and curls back toward his quarterback. After catching
the ball and drawing the defenders to him he laterals the ball to a
teammate trailing the play who runs untouched into the end zone for a
touchdown. The Miami Dolphins once famously used this hook and lateral
play to win a crucial game.
Football commentators now commonly refer to this as the "hook and ladder"
play. It always amuses me when I hear this because most of them have no
clue that they're making a mistake. I think many must've wanted to be
firemen when they grew up!
I heard my children say as teenagers "majorly" for "major league".
My (least) favorite eggcorn is when someone proposes to nip an issue
"in the butt" rather than in the bud. Slightly more painful, and quite
forward depending on the bud involved.
My favorite comes from a student paper in which she was describing a
process. Her process was washing her dog after a trip to the beach. According
to her, she scrubbed and scrubbed him until he was totally emasculate. Poor
Fido. All without anasthesia!
Eggcorn common in real estate descriptions: rod iron for wrought iron.
We moved to Europe when our children were quite young. Many American food
items and products were not available so I often made things from scratch
(macaroni and cheese, pie crust, cakes, brownies, etc.) You can imagine
my amusement when I heard my one daughter telling her cousin that I had
made the cake we were eating "from scraps".
My sister once misread the word "decapitalization" as
"decapitated". Recently, a friend declared champagne to be her "drink of
Today I share with you what, to me, is the most annoying eggcorn: the term
"butt naked" (as opposed to "buck naked").
How about "pedal stool" for "pedestal", etc. I get these frequently from
Remember Mrs Bridges's "very coarse veins"?
"Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," is the first line of William
Congreve's 1697 play, "The Mourning Bride". The word "breast" is commonly
misquoted as "beast" -- which indeed "also makes a kind of sense".
I remember listening to a programme on the wireless some years ago, and being
surprised to learn that some brainy fellow had won several chest ornaments.
Just the other day, a colleague wrote "I don't recall how much force he
used with a come along type wench." He meant "winch", not wench, but the
effect was better this way.
I was once corrected by a Brit professor that the "vest" I was wearing should
be properly called a "waist coat." I challenged him by stating I was willing
to "go to bat" over the correct terminology. He rushed red-faced from the
room, only to quickly return and say he had no idea that I was willing sleep
with him ("go to bed") over such a silly thing.
A now-closed restaurant in New York's Hudson Valley was named the Duck
Cedar Inn. When my wife and I went there some years ago, we learned that
the name either derived from -- or spawned -- the town where it was located,
Tuxedo Park, NY.
One of the funniest mondegreens is the children's hymn about "Gladly,
the cross-eyed bear" for "Gladly the cross I'd bear."
Interesting you choose a reference to Eton Rifles to illustrate a
mondegreen. It's always been Eating Trifles to me.
When I was a child attending Sunday School, I asked my mother why God
didnīt want us to go to Temperley Station. She smiled and said, no dear,
you are asking God not to lead you "into temptation".
When I was a schoolboy, one teacher (a priest) asked us all to write
out The Lord's Prayer and then showed us a compilation of mondegreens
he had culled from previous such efforts. I only remember the first few,
but he had a whole new version equally as funny. It began: "Our Father,
who works in Heaven, Hello, what's your name?"
When I was with a sister cities exchange group in Japan, where it turned
out that reports of the Japanese love for karaoke were all true; it was
even provided on the bus on one of our group trips, with overhead monitors
providing lyrics for whatever song was requested. But it also quickly became
apparent that the lyrics were based on someone writing down what they heard,
rather than copied from published sources. When "California Dreaming"
got selected, the first words provided were "All of these are crowns"
(rather than the correct "All the leaves are brown").
I had once heard a story about an officer in the first world war. I
can't vouch for the story .... but he is reputed to have said: "Send
reinforcements I'm going to advance." The message the recipient received
was "Send three and fourpence I'm going to a dance."
Mondegreen has made Siri a celebrity.
There is an advertisement on local (Tri-Cities, WA) tv stations that drives
me crazy. The singers are saying, "Toyota of Tri-Cites", but all I hear is,
The best example is the Canadian National Anthem, in English: "We stand
on guard for thee", which is often sung as "We stand on God for thee"!
The bumper sticker "Visualize Whirled Peas" somehow comes to mind.
One of the most famous of the Mondegreens is from the song "God Bless
America" "Through the night with a light from a bulb" (for "Through the night with a light from above").
I sang "life is butter dream" in kindergarten (row, row, row your boat)
and "I'm going to eat pizza" (I'm going to ibiza) completely unaware that
I was mondegreening.
Daniel O'Donnell singing 'Among the Wicklow Hills'. The mother writing to
her son far away from the Wicklow Hills mentions that his childhood photo is
on her bedside still. When I first heard O'Donnell sing it sounded like the
photo was on her backside still. Imagine how hilarious that would have been!
I nearly missed the sixties but didn't miss Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze,
1967. Thank you so much for putting a name to "'Scuse me while I kiss the
sky" which some less turned-on folks, parents, etc. thought was "'Scuse
me while I kiss this guy."
My son aged about seven, asked me if Jesus would have to wait a long time
for God to answer. I asked him about this and he said they kept singing a
hymn at school that said "Christ! Our royal master leans against the phone"
(picture the red phone box) when this was from the Hymn Onward Christian
Soldiers -- "Christ, our royal master, leads against the foe."
My favorite mondegreen is from Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life where people
nearly always hear "distant gay places" instead of the actual (as sung by
Billy himself) "distingué places".
High school librarians are trained to help students do their own research and
must refrain from doing it for them. So, many years ago, when a young teen came
up to my desk and asked for help researching mercy killing for a debate,
I gave him the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and told him to try
"Euthanasia". He came back perplexed saying he couldn't find anything. These
were the days of Dr. Kevorkian, and it was a hot topic. "Nothing under
"Euthanasia?" I asked him. He replied, "I looked. I looked under "Youth
in Asia" "Youth in China" and "Youth in Japan" and there was nothing."
One of the best stories I've heard (possibly apocryphal) of a mondegreen
occurred in an emergency room where a woman was heard telling someone on the
phone that her husband, who had experienced a severe myocardial infarction
(heart attack) had been stricken with a "mighty fart".
My favorite appeared in a student essay in which the writer bemoaned his
plight in this "doggy-dog" world. I guess this might be more appropriate
if canines are less inclined to devour each other these days.
When I was young, I loved singing "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and
I always sang "Later on we'll perspire, as we sit by the fire." It made
more logical sense than "conspire".
I wish I could recall what prompted the man at the bar to say to me,
"Well, I turn into an Indian this May," an odd statement to which I,
nonetheless, replied politely, "Why do you do that?" He replied, "Why do
I do what?" at which point I knew we were probably off on a linguistic
adventure of misunderstanding. "Do you get a tan?" I prompted, to which
he replied warily, 'Yes... I get a tan..." I continued helpfully, "Is
that why you turn into an Indian?" "I have absolutely no idea what you're
talking about," to which I replied, "You said, 'I turn into an Indian this
May.'" "No, I said, 'I'm torn between envy and dismay.'"
Church choir directors are very familiar with the mondegreen. One of
my favorites is the hymn, "Lead On, O King Eternal" which, as sung by
congregations, ends up sounding more like "Lead On, O Kinky Turtle."
A mondegreen, in Portuguese, was heard by a female friend of mine after
the 1974 revolution in Portugal in which the Communist party had become
prominent. My friend was complimented at a dinner party for being very
beautiful, like a 'protaganista' (a movie star) but which she heard as, and
was accordingly insulted by, the phrase 'puta comunista' (a Communist whore).
There is, of course, an entire website kissthisguy.com devoted to misheard song lyrics.
The site name stems from one of the most "famous"
misheard lyrics from Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze"!
I don't know which of this week's words could apply to my father-in-law,
whose brain works far faster than his tongue can spit out the words.
Mother-in-law and he were packing their bags for a trip, and he saw
something fragile in her hand. He told her, "Don't check this in, we
will take it as cabbage". He meant 'cabin baggage'!
Last Tuesday, Feb 19, at about 6.08pm, Channel 9 News here in Brisbane
informed us approvingly that "The robber known as The Post Office Bandit
has turned himself into police."
My nephew described long pants -- a rare clothing option to a kid living
in sub-tropical Florida -- as 'long-sleeved shorts'.
My dad always used and stretched the word cat-ass-trophy, for an untoward
All this reminds me of the current play on words of ex-benedict for the
My wife combines common expressions with wonderful results, e.g. "I can
see the brass ring at the end of the tunnel" or "that's gravy on the cake."
Thanks so much Anu. My favourite theme this week is. Pardon my new school
grammar. Accents abound all over China and in overseas Chinese communities
when speaking Mandarin (I enjoyed six years of primary Chinese language
school taught by teachers educated in Eastern Java, Indonesia). That
comprehension requires verbatim script drawn on a palm or in the air. The
same sound with different accentuations vis-ā-vis pronunciations pointing
to different words and meanings. Within China there is this stand-up comedy
genre called Xiāngsheng, played by one or two persons usually. There are
some foreigners adept at this genre and got their fame in the CCTV and Radio.
Preparations were underway for an after-christening party, and I was
entertaining my baby granddaughter by pressing the picture of the duck on
her bib, creating a quacking sound that made her laugh. Soon the bustle in
the kitchen prompted her mother's nod for more quiet, and I said to the baby,
"Oh dear, Mommy wants us to shut the duck up."
I wish you were her to see the wedding, the pineapple of perfection, until
Reverend Spooner asked the bride for her mating name and told the groom
it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride while the Beatles sang the girl
with colitis goes by!
In Pietro Mascagni's one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana the heroine Santuzza joins the chorus at the Easter Mass singing praises for the Risen Savior concluding with the words "O Signor, O Signor" ("Oh Lord, Oh Lord"). My mother heard me playing the recording and thought the soprano (Zinka Milanov on the recording) was singing "Horse manure, horse manure" - which is all I've ever heard too from that day to the present!
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