Fun with Spoonerisms

Spoonerisms Are A Slip of the Tongue

Photo from Amazon

What is a spoonerism? It's just a tip of the slung. Oops—a slip of the tongue! We all make such slips. A spoonerism happens when the consonant letters or sounds of two words are accidentally switched around, and sometimes the results are quite funny. For example, you might be frustrated with your college student for not spending their time wisely in their first year of school, so you tell them, "You've tasted two worms!" What you meant to say is, "You've wasted two terms!"

OK, while that one might not be a realistic example, it does illustrate what a spoonerism is, how often they can happen, and how silly they can be. Everyone can find the humor in a spoonerism—and verbally gifted kids will be especially delighted by this play with language.

If your child enjoys wordplay—or just likes to laugh (and who doesn't?)—have them read some stories full of spoonerisms. And then encourage your child to create their own spoonerisms. She could even write a whole story "spull of foonerisms!"

Read a Story with Spoonerisms

Retelling stories using spoonerisms is a real art form. Some people like Terry Foy (aka Zilch the Torysteller) even make a living doing it. You can visit his Bacefook, err, Facebook page, to learn more about what he does and listen to samples of his storytelling. Listening to him retell well-known fairy tales is a lot of fun.

There are also fairy tales rewritten with spoonerisms that you can read online. One reason that fairy tales are favorites for rewriting in spoonerisms is because many people are already familiar with the stories, so the mixed up words make the story much funnier since they alter the meaning of the stories we all know so well.

Read a Book with Spoonerisms

There are a few books available with spoonerized stories. Here are some good ones to read with your child:

"Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook"

This book by Shel Silverstein is a poem about Runny Babbit and is many friends, like Toe Jurtle and Millie Woose. As you might imagine, all the characters speak in spoonerisms. Kids as young as 1 will enjoy this book and so will adults!

"Smart Feller Fart Smeller: And Other Spoonerisms"

Jon Agee's collection of spoonerisms features questions like "What did it say on the fragile package?" and when you turn the page you get the spoonerized answer. In this case, the answer is "Candle with hair." The questions and answers are illustrated with black and white pictures that add to the fun. The book is for kids 8 and up, but I bet younger ones will find it funny, too.

"Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted: Spoonerisms Run Amok"

Author Keen James spoonerized 43 fairy tales and fables, some of which like "Beeping Sleauty" are available for reading online, but that still leaves quite a few that aren't available online. The book was first published in 1945, but it has been updated a bit to include modern references. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this book.

Write a Story using Spoonerisms

Once your child sees how much fun spoonerisms are, they'll likely want to rewrite some of their favorite stories. They can write them, illustrate them, and even make a book or booklet out of their new story. Making a book of spoonerism stories can be easy and fun, and can even help improve their literacy skills, too. 

2 Sources
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  1. Gibbs RS. Tips of the slongue: The enduring legacy of W.A. Spooner. Obstet Gynecol. 1997;89(6):1047-1048. doi:10.1016/s0029-7844(97)00146-4

  2. Knoop‐van Campen CAN, Segers E, Verhoeven L. How phonological awareness mediates the relation between working memory and word reading efficiency in children with dyslexiaDyslexia. 2018;24:156-169. doi:10.1002/dys.1583

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.