Friday, September 7, 2012

Spoonerisms, Eggcorns, Mondegreens and Other Silly Things

My family has a penchant for Spoonerisms. This is where you utter mixed up syllables of two words, or more, putting together something that sounds utterly ridiculous. It is done accidentally in a moment of the mouth engaged before the brain. My niece, a bride discussing what she wanted to carry in her bouquet said, “I’d like dayling trasies.”  My sister and I knew exactly what she wanted because we, too, talk in Spoonerisms. She wanted “trailing daisies” in her bouquet. I once asked a roommate if she wanted any “pined canapple” on her pizza. She declined wearing a “What’s up with her” look. Other now family remembrances are: ficket pence, flutterby and chilled greese.

The name Spoonerism (aka "marrowsky" after a Polish count) started because a minister all too frequently mixed up parts of words combining them into something hilarious. “Mardon me, padam, but you are occupewing the wrong pie” for “Pardon me, Madam, but you are occupying the wrong pew. “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride,” and “Is the Bean dizzy?”

In the first Harry Potter book, George Weasley said he didn’t know why his aunt knitted their names in the boys’ sweaters because “We know we are Gred and Forge!” The wonderful poet, Shel Silverstein has a book titled Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Many other authors have used spoonerisms deliberately, Shakespeare to name one. Walt Disney created the main dwarf, Doc, to talk in spoonerisms to bring humor into the movie of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Think about adding this element to one of your characters. It interjects some humor in what otherwise might be a too tense scene or story. Sometimes it is called “comic relief.”

Mondegreens are unintentionally misheard words or phrases. Children are especially known for this. In Christmas carols, “The cattle are lowing” becomes “The catalog glowing” or “The cattle are lonely…” “Jeff’s nuts roasting on an open fire,”  “Check for snipping at your nose,” and “Barney’s the king of Israel." “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” was heard “I led the pigeons to the flag. One nation, under God, with liver tea for all.”

Eggcorns is a relatively new term. It began when a woman mistakenly called acorns eggcorns.  It is surprising how many eggcorns are in common use: duck tape, Long Ranger, toe the line, coming down the pipe, mute point, bread and breakfast, skimp milk, garbleydegook, mind bottling, jar dropping and windshield factor.* It is not that people who spoke these phrases are dumb, it is that they heard and/or remembered a verbal conversation wrong. You can bring some levity in your stories with the clever use of any of these funny phrases.

                                 Rindercella and the Prandsome Hince.

Once upon a time, in a dingkom far away, a gung yirl was a slave to her stuggley eptisters. She had to sook and cew all lay dong. An invitation to a bancy fown gall was delivered. It seemed the Prandsome Hince was brooking for lide! The stuggley septisters were so excited. They laughed when Rindercella thought she could go to the bancy fown gall too. After the sean mepstumpper and the stuggley eptisters left, Rindercella ried and ried until her eyes were ced. Suddenly her gary fodmother appeared. “Try your drears my dear. Bibbadee, babbadee boo.” And with a sweep of her wagic mond, Rindercella was transported to the bancy fown gall in a poach made out of a cumpkin. Rindercella danced all light nong. At nidmight, the clock truck svelve and Rindercella reft the gall losing her slass gipper. The next day the Prandsome Hince appeared at Rindercella’s door. “Did you thuse liss?” he said holding up the slass gipper. Rindercella yaid “Ses!’ They were married and hived lappily ever after.

* duct tape, Lone Ranger, tow the line, coming down the pike, moot point, bed and a breakfast, skim milk, gobbledegook, mind boggling, jaw dropping and wind sheer factor.


Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

This post is delightful. I love when language becomes a plaything!

Jennifer Rova said...

As a writer, I find it hard to inject humor. Maybe thinking of some of these methods will help me and other authors.

Ana said...

This is great Jennifer. It gave me the laugh I needed for today!