10 Incredibly Eccentric People

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9. William Archibald Spooner

1844 – 1930

William Archibald Spooner is forever locked into history because the linguistic phenomenon known as a “spoonerism” is named after him. A spoonerism involves the accidental (or sometimes intentional) swapping of letters, words, or vowels in a sentence – for example: “Go and shake a tower” (meaning “go and take a shower”). Spooner was a professor at Oxford and he became so famous for his spoonerisms that people would attend his lectures just to hear him make a mistake. He was not pleased about the great publicity that surrounded him but as he neared death his attitude softened and he gave interviews to the press. Spooner not only got his words wrong: he once wrote to a fellow professor to ask him to come immediately to help solve a problem. At the end of the letter he added a post-script that the matter had been resolved and he needn’t come. Some spoonerisms attributed to Spooner are:

“Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?” (Pardon me, madam, this pew is occupied. Can I show you to another seat?)

“Let us glaze our asses to the queer old Dean” (…raise our glasses to the dear old Queen)

“We’ll have the hags flung out” (…flags hung out)

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