Spoonerism Day Date in the current year: July 22, 2024

Spoonerism Day Spoonerism Day is a fun holiday celebrated annually on July 22. It has nothing to do with spoons; spoonerisms are slips of the tongue or a type of wordplay in which the corresponding sounds of two words in a phrase are switched.

Spoonerisms were named after William Archibald Spooner, an English clergymen and Oxford don. Spooner became notoriously famous for his absent-mindedness and tendency to switch sounds between words when speaking. Of course, Spooner, being a respected university lecturer, was by no means uneducated or stupid; his speech errors are believed to have been caused by his mouth being unable to keep up with his quick thinking.

Over time, many spoonerisms have been attributed to Spooner, such as:

  • “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride” (instead of “customary to kiss”)
  • “This pie is occupewed” (instead of “this pew is occupied”)
  • “You have tasted two worms” (instead of “wasted two terms”)
  • “You have hissed all my mystery lectures” (instead of “missed all my history lectures”)
  • “A well-boiled icicle” (instead of “well-oiled bicycle”)
  • “Fighting a liar in the quadrangle” (instead of “lighting a fire”)
  • “The Lord is a shoving leopard” (instead of “loving shepherd”)

However, there are very few proven examples of spoonerisms that were actually uttered by Spooner. For example, the only substantiated spoonerism listed in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is “The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer” (instead of “rate of wages”). According to Spooner’s former student Robert Seton, as well as Spooner himself, his sole spoonerism was “Kinkering Kongs Their Titles Take” (a mispronunciation of the hymn title “Conquering Kings their Titles Take”).

It should also be noted that spoonerisms had existed long before Spooner’s time. For example, they were used by the French author François Rabelais who was active in the 16th century; he called them contrepèteries. However, as a rule, contrepèteries are lewd or vulgar, whereas spoonerisms do not necessarily have a sexually explicit double meaning. A similar phenomenon in the Finnish language is called sananmuunnos.

Be that as it may, this type of speech error / wordplay became firmly associated with Spooner. The word spoonerism made it to the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1900 and was well established by 1921, when Spooner was still alive and working at Oxford.

Few of Spooner’s mix-ups were deliberate, but spoonerisms can be created on purpose, usually for a humorous effect. Protesters may use spoonerisms on signs they hold up during demonstrations to avoid being arrested for using profanities (for example, a “Buck Frexit” sign could be seen during an anti-Brexit protest in London).

The origins of Spoonerism Day are unclear, but the date makes sense because Spooner was born on July 22, 1844. Great ways to celebrate this amazing holiday include learning more about spoonerisms, making up spoonerisms with your friends (you can make a game or challenge out of it), and sharing your favorite spoonerisms on social media with the hashtag #SpoonerismDay.

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Spoonerism Day, unofficial holidays, fun holidays, spoonerisms, William Archibald Spooner