Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Origin of English Words- "Spoonerism"

The words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped are known as Spoonerisms. These linguistic flip flops or accidental transposition of letters and syllables often produce rhyming sounds along with making sense. English language has provided rich and fertile soil to their growth. There are around 616,500 words in English and are growing at a rate of 450-500 per year. All this offers a great scope for such a ludicrous swapping. Such swapping happens mainly due to slip of tongue.

The word “Spoonerism” owes its existence to Rev William A Spooner. Born in 1844 in London, Spooner was an albino with poor eyesight. He was a Dean in Oxford University. He died at the age of 88.

With his “Tinglish errors” or may say “English terrors" he has left a legacy of laughter and smiles apart from providing a new entry in English dictionary i.e. the word “spoonerism”

Spooner had a nimble mind; it worked so fast that his tongue could not match the speed with which his brain processed the thoughts which led to the crossing up of words and sounds. This especially happened when he was angry or anxious.

Some of his famous “Spoonerisms” were:

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes" when he meant to say "Drink is the curse of the working classes".

"Noble tons of soil" for "noble sons of toil",

"You have hissed my mystery lectures; you have tasted the whole worm" for "you have missed my history lectures; you have wasted the whole term"

"Queer old dean" when referring to “Dear old Queen Victoria”.

There is a psychoanalytical point of view when one produces these verbal somersaults.

The words are substituted in which the two words--intended and spoken--are not related in meaning but are similar in their sounds such as 'persecuted' for 'prosecuted'. It gives us the account of structure and organization of our mental dictionary. Words are stored in our mental dictionary in semantic classes (according to their related meanings) and also by their sounds (similar to the spelling sequences in a printed dictionary). Speech errors like that of spoonerisms, show the mental representation and processing of what we know about the language we speak. Such errors also sometimes reveal our repressed thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment