Apr 28

Secret Comedy Writing Technique – Spoonerisms

In my on-going mini series Secret Comedy Writing Techniques I’m going to briefly cover Spoonerisms. A spoonerism is a play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched. It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to oming out with these verbal twists. An example from the Reverend is as follows: “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride” (“customary to kiss”).

While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue resulting from unintentionally getting one’s words in a tangle, they are considered a form of pun when used purposely as a play on words.

The technique was used by the late British comedy actor Ronnie Barker who had a recurring character in his sketch show The Two Ronnies (with Ronnie Corbett). I believe it was was based on Reverend Spooner, although I’m not 100% sure of this. Here’s an extract from a monologue that Barker performed about the fairy tale character Cinderella:

“This is the story of Rindercella and her sugly isters.
Rindercella and her sugly isters lived in a marge lansion.
Rindercella worked very hard frubbing sloors, emptying poss pits,
and shivelling shot. At the end of the day, she was knucking fackered”.

As I am fond of saying you don’t actually need to use any of these techniques in order to be funny. However, it would be remiss of me not to draw your attention to them especially if you can find a way to ultilise spoonerisms in your work.