The headline stopped me short in my perusal of the daily newspaper: “Activist helped mold enclave.”
I conjured up an image of a dedicated, enthusiastic supporter of enclaves of mold colonies, protecting their rights to exist and spread their unhealthy sliminess over other areas.
Of course, in this case, “mold” was used as a verb, and the activist’s goal was to establish a plan to improve the community.
The vocabulary, structure and idioms of English certainly lend themselves to misinterpretations, often humorous.
“Take with a grin of salt” was some of Yogi Berra’s advice. Of course, he also claimed, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
Spooner as caricatured
by Spy (Leslie Ward)
inVanity Fair, April 1898
Spoonerisms, or “tips of the slung” as they are sometimes called, are named for Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford. He had albinism and nearly blind, and he was prone to transpose syllables, giving his pronouncements new meanings. The only one to which he admitted was when announcing a hymn, he called for “The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take” (Instead of Conquering Kings.) However, popular lore attributes many more to him, including the infamous statement to a woman who had taken his place in church, "Mardon me padom, you are occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?" ("Pardon me madam, you are occupying my pew. May I show you to another seat?” and "The Lord is a shoving leopard” (The Lord is a loving shepherd.) At a wedding, he stated, "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride" (customary to kiss the bride.)
About returning troops, he said, “When our boys come home from France, we will have the hags flung out.”
Also, "I have in my bosom a half-warmed fish" (for half-formed wish), supposedly said in a speech to Queen Victoria.
He was also credited with saying, "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain" ("You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train") but that’s doubtful. ("Names make news". Time. 1928-10-29. Retrieved2008-09-20.)
Charles H. Workman, a contemporary to Rev. Spooner, was subject to such misstatements on stage when
An unfortunate bakery ad proclaimed it had "the breast bed and rolls you ever tasted.”
A television announcer once saying that "All the world was thrilled by the marriage of the Duck and Doochess of Windsor.” (Simonini, R. C. [December 1956]. "Phonemic and Analogic Lapses in Radio and Television Speech")
Supposedly CBC once had an announcer who identified them as "
Some performers have used deliberate spoonerisms. Capitol Steps, a Washington, D.C. group, which specializes in political satire, referred to President Reagan as the Resident Pagan.
Archie Campbell, of Hee Haw fame, often told the story of