Friday 22 July 2022

Dawn on This Bay

 Born on this day in 1844 was William Archibald Spooner, the famously absent-minded Oxford don after whom the Spoonerism – as in 'It is kisstumary to cuss the bride' – was named. Spooner himself, an albino with poor eyesight, spent 60 years of his life in the service of New College, Oxford (where he was the first non-Wykehamist undergraduate), and was the very image of the unworldly bachelor don, but was actually a married man with five children, one of whom went on to found a large engineering firm and another of whom was a successful portrait painter. He was not very pleased to be associated with the Spoonerism, many of the most famous examples of which were invented by Oxford wags and others. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has only one authenticated Spoonerism: 'The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer'. Spooner himself confessed to 'Kinquering Congs their titles take'. Invented Spoonerisms include 'I am tired of addressing beery wenches', 'The Lord is a shoving leopard' and 'You have hissed all my mystery lectures, and were caught fighting a liar in the quad'. 
  Personally, I find the stories of Spooner's absent-mindedness (no doubt equally apocryphal) rather more entertaining. One has him inquiring of an undergraduate, 'Was it you or your brother who was killed in the war?' In another he invites a colleague to tea 'to welcome Stanley Casson, our new Archaeology fellow'. 'But, sir,' the man replies, 'I am Stanley Casson.' 'Never mind,' says Spooner. 'Come anyway.' 
Then there was the long sermon he (allegedly) preached, to an understandably bemused congregation, all about Aristotle. Descending from the pulpit when it was over, he was suddenly struck by a thought, climbed back up and announced, 'I'm sorry – did I say Aristotle? I meant Saint Paul.'  


  1. That one on French radio which was supposedly to refer to 'la population du Cape'....

  2. Brilliant! Are the French fond of spoonerisms, I wonder? I know they're big on puns...

  3. Thanks, Nige - that was from me, Paul W. Couldn't work out how to signal my name.