Thursday, February 19, 2015


The stickers below are whimsical examples of a spoonerism, which is the transposition of initial letters or syllables of two words, usually by accident. The swap, often made when one talks too fast, creates a new, sometimes humorous phrase. A crushing blow becomes a blushing crow, a pack of lies becomes a lack of pies, lighting a fire becomes fighting a liar and a ducking fork becomes a … well, never mind. As comedian George Carlin once said: Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.


This transposition is named after William A. Spooner, a clergyman and warden at the University of Oxford in the early 20th century. Spooner purportedly made such verbal slips often, so the attribution stuck. When toasting Queen Victoria, Britain’s dear old queen from 1837 to 1901, he may or may not have said: Three cheers for our queer old dean.

A sticker, regardless of its cuteness and cleverness, is only as tasty as its weakest ingredient, as poetic as its worst verse. So, when said sticker contains a misspelled word, it’s comparable to a bad salad … or a sad ballad.

On these stickers, one of the words has been dis- assembled. Take it apart. Dismember that dis- member. (Why did dis- appear? It needs to vanish.) Replace it with dys-, a prefix meaning difficult or abnormal or bad.

People prone to spoonerisms may suffer from dyslexia, a learning disability characterized by difficulty reading, and people with dyslexia are dyslexics.  If you dis- that word, I must dis your dysfunctional sticker. The message it contains is important, but spelling is tivotal poo.

Have I not spoon-fed you enough material on spoonerisms? Hungry for more? I have three honest-to-goodness suggestions. 1. Head to North Carolina and attend the annual Apple Chill festival in Chapel Hill. 2. Stop at Affy Tapple in Niles, Illinois, for a sweet treat. 3. Read Shel Silverstein’s Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook.

Whatever you do, do not get spoonerism-happy around anyone named Kerry Hunt. You’ve been warned.

Jessica De Sousa Costa

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