I'll take my eggs easy over while I read my mazagine.
August 15, 2007 5:07 PM   Subscribe

LinguisticsFilter: A friend of mine tends to unintentionally mix her words at times. What is this called? Examples within....

We were talking the other night about the Eggcorn Database, when we got onto the subject of how she somewhat frequently transposes two words in a phrase - for instance "easy over," "reef coral" or "polish nail," instead of "over easy," "coral reef" and "nail polish." These make sense, kind of, and in some cases give a new slant to the phrase. It's unlike the eggcorn phenomena, tho, because these are words or phrases she knows perfectly well, just tends to habitually mispronounce.

However, sometimes she does it even within words, like "mazagine," or switches beginning letters of two words in a phrase, like "foon sped" instead of "spoon fed."

What is this called, besides transposition? Is it a different case where the phrase still retains actual words vs rendering the word or phrase nonsensical? She generally says "verbally dyslexic," but that doesn't seem to capture it fully. Neither of us is thinking that it's some sort of disorder, it's just that she has done this since she was young, it's not an everyday thing, but it happens often enough for it to be memorable. We're interested in Googling around to see if others do this but are not quite sure where to start....
posted by nevercalm to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think the example of "foon sped" is a Spoonerism.
posted by padraigin at 5:09 PM on August 15, 2007

Please hush my brat, it's roaring with pain outside. (They're close to spoonerisms, but spoonerisms generally rely on syllables being swapped, not whole words).
posted by klangklangston at 5:12 PM on August 15, 2007

Those are just transpositions, aren't they?
posted by lekvar at 5:15 PM on August 15, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all.
posted by nevercalm at 5:18 PM on August 15, 2007

Sounds like something in the neighbourhood of Aphasia.
posted by ambilevous at 5:22 PM on August 15, 2007

Response by poster: What's interesting to me is that they tend to recur....I have never heard her say any of the above cited examples correctly. They're always incorrect, which suggests to me that they were simply sort of mis-learned. She does tend to spoonerize, tho not in any of the really hilarious ways mentioned in the various places we Googled up.

Ambilevous: eponystericalish.
posted by nevercalm at 5:29 PM on August 15, 2007

A friend of mine also does that--'easy over' and my fave: "Remember that one song, 'Peppermints and Sassafras'?" Of course it's 'Incense and Peppermint'. And 'bohemian' for 'behemouth'. Drives me INSANE...and this guy was an engineer/technical writer/instructor for Lockheed-Martin.
posted by wafaa at 5:34 PM on August 15, 2007

...and let's not forget to mention 'pitch white'. Sorry. I'll be done now...
posted by wafaa at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2007

Response by poster: That's interesting jamaro, because I do that myself constantly. I never made that connection, tho.
posted by nevercalm at 5:52 PM on August 15, 2007

I wonder if this couldn't be link to some forme of dislexia. I had a cousin who would mispronounce word and had troubled reading an analogic clock. That said, I occasinally switch words in English (as in easy over), but then English in not my first language.
posted by bluefrog at 5:54 PM on August 15, 2007

No mention of Spoonerisms would be complete without a link to The Best of Con Shawnery on PepperG! (starring Battleaxe Quebec).
posted by rob511 at 6:01 PM on August 15, 2007

Is her (or her parents') first language English? French and other languages place the adjectives after the noun, so this is a common speech pattern for Francophones. Both over and easy are adjectives in this usage, so the order doesn't logically matter for that one.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:25 PM on August 15, 2007

I'd like to ask you what may seem a strange question, nevercalm-- what is your friend's coloring?

Spooner was an albino, supposedly, and I worked out a theory of how spoonerisms could happen based on this.

I would also be highly interested to know if she has a wandering eye or a tendency to be cross-eyed.
posted by jamjam at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2007

Isn't there a similar situation where people mix entire words in sentences, examples being, I dunno... "He has the lion of a heart," or "Don't forget to dish the washes"?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:26 PM on August 15, 2007

My favorite spoonerism is "Mardon me, padam, may I sew you to a sheet?"

But no discussion of funny word substitutions can be considered complete without the venerable malaprop.
posted by Lynsey at 11:17 PM on August 15, 2007

Mardon me, padam, but you're hitting on my sat.
posted by Cranberry at 11:22 PM on August 15, 2007

A sort of second-level spoonerism, by none other than Dr. Spooner himself:
[Reverend William Archibald] Spooner, of the reversed consonants and other verbal mixups, and warden of New College, was "walking with a friend in North Oxford and meeting a lady dressed in black, to whom he lifted his hat... 'Poor soul,' he said, 'very sad; her late husband, you know, a very sad death—eaten by missionaries.'"
posted by Slithy_Tove at 11:38 PM on August 15, 2007

Response by poster: WGP/Jamjam: She is white and grew up in Hawaii, her father is white/Portugeuse but "local" on the island, in that he is of that culture and speaks Pidgin. Her mother is white from NY.
posted by nevercalm at 12:11 PM on August 16, 2007

Best spoonerism my son came up with is "tooth bowl", which has become a meme in our family: "Get your money out--here's the tooth bowl."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:47 PM on August 16, 2007

Thank you, nevercalm.
posted by jamjam at 12:09 AM on August 17, 2007

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