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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Can I Sew You to Another Sheet?

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Coloring

No need for fancy or expensive coloring books, though they can certainly be fun. You can create your own designs to color by simply holding two pens or pencils in your hand and swooping around your paper, turning your hand (or your paper) in different directions, making ribbons and/or various abstract shapes. Then color whatever areas you want. It’s the steady, gentle back and forth motion of coloring, among other things, that can be so calming, engaging your mind just enough to take it off your worries.

Can I Sew You to Another Sheet?

You may (or may not) know about the idiosyncrasies of an Oxford don and minister who was first a tutor, then Warden of New College during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His name? William Archibald Spooner.

Though very smart, it seems that Dr. Spooner was a little absent minded—or perhaps his brain was just a bit different from most peoples'. In any case, sometimes he mixed up letters and words with interesting results. For instance, he was reported to have said that he was happy to have “a well-boiled icicle.” That would be a well-oiled bicycle for most of us.

This is, of course, the origin of the word "Spoonerism." My dad, an English teacher and sometime comedian, loved Spoonerisms. One of his favorites supposedly took place in church: one Sunday, they say, Spooner noticed a woman sitting in what was normally someone else’s pew. He went up to her and said, “Mardon me, padam, you are occupewing the wrong pie. Can I sew you to another sheet?”

To be fair, most history books (and websites now say that Dr. Spooner probably didn’t make all the mistakes people attribute to him. In fact, his daughter said she never heard him mix his words up!

On the other hand, in his article on Spooner for the New College Notes, Sami Anderson-Talbi noted that "Spooner was entertaining a guest in the Warden’s Lodgings, and when it came time to leave he offered to ‘see [her] safely down the stairs’ as they were quite dark. Spooner then proceeded to turn off the light [italics mine], and escort the poor woman down the stairs in complete darkness. Luckily, Spooner’s daughter came to their rescue, and later corroborated this story."

This was one of several examples of what could be called "physical spoonerisms." In a blog post, British professor Oliver Tearle noted that Spooner was reported (by a friend of Arthur Toynbee's mother) to have poured claret over some salt he’d spilled on the tablecloth." Salt is known to absorb a wine spill as well as lift the wine color out of a tablecloth.

Though absent minded, he was kind, good-natured, and well-loved by his university students. "One touching story describes how Spooner insisted on providing an Egyptian student with extra blankets and warm clothes, as the boy was struggling with the British climate" (Anderson-Talbi). There were various other accounts of his generosity and kindness.

There were some documented cases of verbal Spoonerisms but as Anderson-Talbi noted, "We can apply a general rule that the more ridiculous the Spoonerism, the more likely that it is made up. Most likely by undergraduates."

Whether Spooner actually said the many things attributed to him or not, they are often quite humorous. For example, he is supposed to have told one friend that the friend’s cottage was a “nosy little cook.” And another that he needed to go "shake a tower." There's a report that at a dinner, Spooner toasted Queen Victoria by saying, "Give three cheers for our queer old dean." In one of his sermons he was reported to have said, “our Lord is a shoving leopard.” And supposedly he once said, "it is kisstomary to cuss the bride."

Shel Silverstein wrote and illustrated two books of poems using Spoonersims, the first of which was called Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook, with characters like Toe Jurtle, Ploppy Sig, and Pilly Belican, who owned the Sharber Bop.

Given my dad's playful appreciation of Spoonerisms, it's not surprising that as family members we enjoyed (and still enjoy) making up our own. Here are a few gleaned from memory--mine? other family members? I honestly don't remember--and from the internet. These Spoonerisms range from the exchange of first (or second) letters to whole syllables, even whole words as in the last two examples.

- I used my lop tap to look up the answer.

- She took her beeping slag on the trip.

- I love belly jeans.

- He really needs a care hut.

- She enjoyed having fair beet in the summer.

- I ate some chocolate bookie cars.

- She opened her boat nook carefully.

- Are we going to have keys and parrots for dinner?

- Use the court shut to save some time.

- Yummy--we’re having rot post tonight.

- I like those little tiny beet malls in the soup.

- Rover’s tag was wailing back and forth.

- I use a lot of chip stack when it’s cold outside.

- Have the courage to blow the bears of life.

- When saying good-bye to someone: "Must you stay, can't you go?"

I'd love to hear your favorites! But I think I'll wait to share my favorite until next week.

Until then, Dawn

Photo credits:

Crayons, unknown

Spooner, Bain News Service (via Wikipedia)

Runny Babbit, Shel Silverstein

Parrot with keys, Lafeber Company, Pepperberg Lab


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