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AWADmail Issue 556A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
A few years ago I spoke to a bunch of schoolkids about wordplay. A week later I received a packet from the school with letters from the students. One student had written,
Dear Mr Garg,
Yank thou for coming to our school and talking about wordplay. My favorite was spoonerism....
Who knew errors (inadvertent or intentional) could be so much fun? In the deluge of email that came in in response to this week's words, there were notes from teachers who sent bloopers of their students and students who shared those of their professors; parents emailed their kids' sayings, and kids spilled the beans on their parents (especially mothers-in-law); broadcasters sent what they blurted on radio, and listeners shared what they heard.
Some even shared their own linguistic errors. Below is a small selection of spoonerisms and more. To prevent this issue of AWADmail from being blocked by email filters that don't like things too long or too suggestive, we have put a lot more of the selected responses on our website. See AWADmail 556 Extra.
Many people consider Walmart to be a blight on the landscape. I, for one,
prefer to call them a Mall wart.
I once committed the ultimate spoonerism by calling a faux pas a paux fas!
Then well-known banjo player, Eddie Peabody, was once introduced by the
emcee, who announced that, "Eddie Playbody will now pee for you."
My mother, referring to the tennis star Billie Jean King: "King Jelly-Bean".
At New College, Oxford (where the Rev. Spooner was based), the graduate
common room is referred to as "The Spoom", short for the "Rooner Spoom" --
the formal name of the room is the Spooner Room but the graduate students,
in tribute, made it into a spoonerism.
I was mentoring a recently ordained clergyperson, taking his first wedding,
when he came to asking if anyone can show "...any just cause why these
two persons may not be 'joyfully loined' together in holy matrimony, they
should speak now or forever hold their peace." The words should have been
"lawfully be joined" and thankfully it was at the rehearsal, as nobody could
'hold their peace' for several minutes.
A friend, wishing to celebrate his divorce, suggested that we go to the
saloon for a beverage. I suggested that if he wanted decoration for the
party he might consider a balloon for the severage.
The award for best malapropism of 1968 goes to Mayor Richard M. Daley of
Chicago: "Today we will rise to higher and higher platitudes."
While working in Moscow some years ago, several of us overheard a colleague
complaining about Russian: "I just can't get a handle on this acrylic
A patriotic and proper London-born friend, referring to his dual US/British
citizenship and obviously hesitating over "throne" vs. "crown", was
chagrined to hear himself tell us that he would always be loyal to the crone.
My aunt was fond of lying down on the sofa with an "African" (afghan)
on top of her!
I do volunteer hospital chaplaincy one morning a week. It's an orthopaedic
ward, so there are a lot of elderly patients and I often get to hear stories
and reminiscences. One patient was telling me of his wartime travels and how,
out of all the places he'd been, the one he'd go back to was Egypt. "Why
there?" I asked. "Well, there's so much history there -- the pyramids,
the Sphinx, the museums ... and Tutankhamen's oesophagus."
I will never forget bumping into an acquaintance who was on the way to
the vet with her dog, because he had "a bone stuck in his sarcophagus".
A friend of mine was ill and needed to get a biopsy done. Her husband upon
hearing this asked her a bit later when the autopsy would take place so
he could go with her! Her reply: "Not quite yet dear."
A spoonerism that once passed my lips, as if by Freudian slip, was "nagavate"
when I'm sure I meant to say "navigate". My dear wife, Julie, and sitting
beside me, was only trying to help undo an errant turn.
My husband made one of these one day as we were on a drive. I usually
navigate (no GPS for us!) and I let us pass the restroom stop he needed
to make. As he realized we had passed it he exclaimed, "You are supposed
to be the nagivator, aren't you?" It was, according to him, completely by
accident. He would certainly never call me a nag.
Brings to mind a very funny incident. A friend once received a wedding
invitation card which said, "Please grace the occasion with your presents."
I overheard a guy who had just driven across country say that "The car
was loaded to the tilt."
My four-year-old granddaughter refers to previous times as "lasterday"
How about an eggcorn in the marriage ceremony? "Till debt do us part."
One of my students wrote, "I was born from my mother's wound."
I live in Kolkata, India and it has surely got to be the Eggcorn
Mecca. People frequently ask for a "date-line" instead of a deadline. "Cheap
Minister" refers to chief minister (of a state).
My sister when she was a baby used to call a "napkin", a "lapkin". We all
thought it was quite charming.
My favorite example of this is a blooper from an old television series
with Bill Bixby. He was talking about a wife beater husband and said,
"He's an egg beater and that makes it worse."
Here in Ireland in the 1980s some of us could not figure out why Kenny Rogers
and Dolly Parton were getting so worked up about Ireland's industry. (Islands
in the Stream)
Years ago, as a boy in India, the All-India Radio newscaster would typically
begin: "This is All-India Radio..." For some reason, I always heard it as
"This is all in the radio..." and wondered why the newscaster reminded us
daily that the news was indeed coming from within the radio.
I'm not sure whether the following is an example of a mondegreen or a
Freudian slip. There is a line in the song "Down Under" by Men at Work:
"I met a strange lady, she made me nervous", which I would sing as "I met
a strange lady, she made me undress", till my older sister corrected me
and put me out of my reverie.
There should be a word to describe this mondegreen from one language to
another. It happens all the time! In U2's song "One" they say "to drag the
past out", but we Spanish speakers hear "Te traigo pasta" (I bring you
pasta). Likewise, in The Eagles' "Hotel California" they sing "then she
lit up a candle", but we hear "el chinito pecando" (the little Chinese is
sinning). Go figure.
I am hearing-impaired and have a telephone with closed captioning on a
screen. In a recent phone conversation, this wonderful mondegreen came
across. My friend was describing the preparation of a drink and she said,
"throw out the pulp and keep the juice." But the CC read, "Throw out the
Pope and keep the Jews." Those closed captioning fellas have a pretty
Read more online in AWADmail 556 Extra.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Men ever had, and ever will have leave, / To coin new words well suited to the age, / Words are like leaves, some wither every year, / And every year a younger race succeeds. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)