A verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence you have hissed the mystery lectures, accidentally spoken instead of the intended sentence you have missed the history lectures.
- ‘Malapropisms and spoonerisms add colour to language.’
- ‘Adam tries to object to this and other outrages, but he's so flustered that all that comes out are exasperated spoonerisms.’
- ‘He was for many years a cricket commentator on Indian radio, famed for his spoonerisms.’
- ‘They speak in spoonerisms and malapropisms and put forward bizarre concepts and beliefs.’
- ‘The best-known of these are the sound transpositions called spoonerisms.’
Early 20th century: named after the Rev. W. A. Spooner (1844–1930), an English scholar who reputedly made such errors in speaking.