Many of our words come from people’s names, usually because they invented the item. You have probably heard that the “sandwich” was invented by the Earl of Sandwich who did not want to leave the gambling table to eat so he asked for some meat between two slices of bread. Braille, the method of printing for the blind, comes from Louis Braille, a blind man who created the system. Joel R. Poinsett served as a U.S. minister to Mexico and brought back a certain plant (easy to guess its name, yes?). The Jacuzzi brothers invented the first self-contained whirlpool bath. By the way, I learned about these names from one of my literacy student books – I think I learn more from these books than my students!
But here is a word I recently read that I could not figure out – Spoonerism. When I looked it up, I realized that something I had been doing for years had a name!
Spoonerism means the transposition of word beginnings. Most of my life I have accidentally called two pieces of silverware a “spork and foon” instead of fork and spoon. I don’t know why my mouth insists on saying this spoonerism, but it does, so I have learned to run them past my brain, first, to double check the words’ pronunciations before I dare to say them out loud. It helps a little bit that “spork” has become a real word, indicating that strange-looking plastic utensil that is a combination of a fork and a spoon. No such future for “foon,” apparently.
The name comes from an English clergyman named W. A. Spooner who was well known for such slips.
Do any of you transpose the beginning of words?