Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

JULY 22nd

On this day in history in 1844, was born William Spooner.

Spooner was a university lecturer who became infamous for his habit of inadvertently transposing the initial letter of two adjacent words to form a comical mispronunciation known as a spoonerism.

Spooner was educated at Oswestry School and New College, Oxford. He spent his entire career at New College, staring as a junior lecturer and rising to become Dean. Spooner lectured in Ancient History, Divinity and Philosophy.

Spooner had a reputation for being nervous and absent minded. He once invited a colleague to tea to welcome the new archaeology fellow. “But, Doctor Spooner”, responded his colleague, “I am the new archaeology fellow.” “Never mind,” replied Spooner “Come all the same!”

It was Spooner’s verbal indiscretions that made him famous. He once offered a toast to the ‘queer old dean’ [dear old queen] and invited everyone to [fling the hags out [hang the flags out]. He is reported to have said to a lethargic undergraduate. “You have tasted a whole worm. You hiss all my mystery lectures. You were seen fighting a liar in the quad. You will leave on the next town drain.”

Spooner talked of ‘a well boiled icicle’, ‘a blushing crow’ and ‘a half-warmed fish’. He addressed a group of farmers as ‘You tons of soil’ and at a wedding said’ It is kisstomary to cuss the bride’. When visiting a college official, he enquired ‘Is the bean dizzy?’ and when he dropped his hat, he huffily remarked ‘Will nobody pat my hiccup?’

Once when in church, he found a lady in his customary place and uttered ‘Mardon me, padom. You are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?’

Spooner died in 1930 and is buried in Grasmere Cemetery [Pye Lane, Grasmere, Cumbria] but Spoonerisms live on after him. Modern examples of spoonerisms are ‘rental deceptionist’, ‘crooks and nannies’ and ‘flocks of bats’. The late football manager, Brian Clough referred to pitch invaders as ‘cupid stunts’ and Jasper Carrot reports that his aunt spoke of him as ‘a shining wit’.

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