Spoonerism vs malapropism

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A spoonerism is a verbal mistake in which the initial consonant sounds of two words are transposed, often to comedic effect. The word spoonerism was coined after a Warden of New College, Oxford, Reverend William Archibald Spooner. The term spoonerism was used at Oxford as early as 1885, entering into the lexicon of the general English-speaking public around 1900. Many spoonerisms attributed to Spooner are apocryphal, though Spooner himself admitted to uttering,  “The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take,” rather than the hymn entitled The Conquering Kings Their Titles Take.

A malapropism is the verbal mistake in which a word is substituted with another word that sounds similar but means something entirely different, often to comedic effect. The word malapropism is taken from a character, Mrs. Malaprop, in a 1775 play called The Rivals, written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It is assumed that Sheridan coined the character name from the French phrase, mal à propos, which means inappropriately. The word malaprop is also considered correct, and is interchangeable with the word malapropism.


Mr Naughtie later apologised to listeners and suggested the error came ‘courtesy of Dr Spooner’ – referencing an Oxford don known for muddling his words, and after whom a spoonerism is named. (The Daily Mail)

Memories of James Naughtie’s infamous Freudian spoonerism of “Jeremy Hunt” and “Culture Secretary” may now be a fading memory – but the sentiment remains very much there. (The Independent)

Ever since her start as part of the mumblecore movement a decade ago, she’s excelled as a kind of self-aware ditz – chatty and well spoken but still apt to throw in a malaprop or two. (The National Post)

He makes his appearance with the malaprop assumption that Churchill is “Church Hill,” and he squeezes the last drop of embarrassment out of this blunder and all those to come. (The New Yorker Magazine)

This problem, defined by scientists as malapropism, usually happens when someone is suffering stress or fatigue. (The Jakarta Post)