Guide to Literary Terms

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Spoonerism

Spoonerism - a phrase in which two words’ initial consonants have been switched deliberately for a humorous effect.

The term comes from Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844 – 1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who innocently switched the initial consonants of two words in specific phrases. An example is saying “the queer old dean” for the dear old queen.