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Tips of the Slung

September 4, 2020

By Jim Rhodes

 

Sir Stafford Cripps (above) was a leftish political leader, cabinet member and diplomat of the mid-20th century, who despite his many public accomplishments in the service of his country is little remembered today.

Except for one thing.

He was once introduced for a radio interview by a BBC announcer as Sir Stifford Crapps.

Poor devil, he never lived it down.

Sir Stafford was a victim of a linguistic phenomenon known as spoonerism, which occurs when the letters in two adjacent words are accidentally reversed to create a new phrase.

Such as “flying at the lead of spite.” Or “it’s all a lack of pies.”

The name derives from a British academic named William Archibald Spooner, who lived from 1844 to 1930. He was an Anglican priest and scholar who rose to become Warden of New College, Oxford. He was said to have been a brainy man and accomplished scholar, but apparently his tongue could not keep up with his thoughts.

Stories of Dr. Spooner’s famous “tips of the slung” abound. Some are doubtless apocryphal. But others claim to have been documented.

  • When proposing a toast to Queen Victoria, he raised his glass “To our queer old dean,” instead of dear old queen.
  • Witnessing a naval review, he commented on the “cattle ships and bruisers.”
  • In a sermon, he once preached, “Our Lord is a shoving leopard,” and at another time “For now we see only through a dark, glassly.” And he once announced a hymn as “Kinkering Congs.”
  • He once took a student to task for “fighting a liar in the quadrangle,” and another for having “hissed my mystery lecture” adding “you have tasted two worms.”
  • Officiating at a wedding, he supposedly said, “Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride.”

When I was a youngster, probably about eight years old, I spied on a bookshelf a volume of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which I almost immediately transposed in my head into A Sale of Two Titties. Naturally I thought it was the funniest joke ever, and it kept me doubled over with uncontrollable laughter for weeks afterward. (Attribute it to the warped workings of an adolescent brain.)

You may be interested to know there are dozens of books and entire websites dedicated to spoonerisms, with word combinations numbering in the thousands. For instance …

  • Shake a tower
  • Chipping the flannel
  • Plaster man
  • It’s roaring with pain

While writing this post, the back of my mind was churning away and spitting out spoonerisms by the dozen. Such as …

  • A mere bug
  • Tar bender
  • Patter killer
  • Shaling sip on the Slack Bee

I’m sure you can think of many more of your own. Maybe a fun party game at your next (virtual) get-together?

If this is the sort of thing you enjoy, may I recommend the story of the Pee Little Thrigs, as told by Archie Campbell on the late lamented TV show Hee Hawhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dPIXTCAg6I

The first pittle lig came down the road widen a raggin’. The farmer asked him what he had and he said he had a stroad of law — he was going to build his strouse out of haw. So he did — he built his strouse out of haw. The big, bad wolf said, “Pittle lig, pittle lig, let me come in.” The first pittle lig said, “Not by the chair of my hinny, hin, hin.” The wolf said, “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll hoe your blouse down.” So he huffed, and he puffed, and he hoed his blouse down. The first pittle lig ran away.

The second pittle lig came down the road widen a raggin’. The farmer asked what he had and he said he had a stoad of licks — he was going to build his stouse out of hicks. So he did — he built his stouse out of hicks. The big, bad wolf said, “Pittle lig, pittle lig, let me come in.” The second pittle lig said, “Not by the chair of my hinny, hin, hin.” The wolf said, “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll hoe your blouse down.” So he huffed, and he puffed, and he hoed his blouse down. The second pittle lig ran away.

The third pittle lig came down the road widen a raggin’. The farmer asked what he had and he said he had a broad of licks — he was going to build his brouse out of licks. So he did — he built his brouse out of licks. The big, bad wolf said, “Pittle lig, pittle lig, let me come in.” The third pittle lig said, “Not by the chair of my hinny, hin, hin.” So the wolf huffed, and he puffed, but he couldn’t hoe his blouse down. Then the big, bad wolf went up on the roof and came down the chimney. The pee little thrigs were ready for him and he landed in a pot of boiling water.

So the pee little thrigs had wolf stew.