Thursday, August 25, 2005


The transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow. Spoonerisms were coined around 1900 by the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) a kindly but nervous educationalist and Anglican clergyman who worked as a cleric and scholar serving as Dean and Warden of Oxford's New College spanning a carrer of over forty years.

It is said he once addressed a group of farmers as "ye noble tons of soil," queried after a university official by asking "Is the bean dizzy?" and admonished a student because he had "tasted two worms" and "hissed all my mystery lectures."

Spoonerisms have been used by the American humorist Colonel Stoopnagel in My Tale is Twisted,(1946) and Little Slack Bamboo and comprise areas of James Joyce's technique in Finnegan's Wake. Feghoots are vignettes ending in puns which are frequently Spooneristic and Isaac Asimov did quite a few.

Spoonerisms are fairly easy to come up with, here are a few simple guidelines:

    First, you take the two sounds from the beginning of two different words/syllables. --funny bone
    Next, interchange the two sounds to the other wordor syllable --bunny fone
    When writing them, make sure to spell the resulting words correctly -- bunny phone
    Finally, not all Spoonerisms will make sense; instead they may just sound strange or funny, often times a certain poetry can result.

More a slip of the tongue spoonerisms have phonetic resemblance to one another, as in slow and sneet (snow and sleet). They can also affect vowels, as in cuss and kiddle (kiss and cuddle), as well as, the final sounds of words and syllables: hass or grash (hash or grass). These spoonerisms give rise to evidence as to how speech is planned in the brain before uttered and also affect larger items, such as whole syllables and words: mouth in her food (food in her mouth), to gap the bridge (to bridge the gap).

More Spoonerisms

Cattle ships and bruisers = Battle ships and cruisers
Nosey little cook = Cosy little nook
A blushing crow = A crushing blow
Fighting a liar = Lighting a fire
You hissed my mystery lecture = You missed my history lecture
You've tasted two worms = You've wasted two terms
Our shoving leopard = Our loving shepherd
A half-warmed fish = A half-formed wish
Is the bean dizzy? = Is the Dean busy?
Know your blows = Blow your nose
Go and shake a tower = Go and take a shower
Tease my ears = Ease my tears
Stop nicking your pose = Stop picking your nose
Lack of pies = Pack of lies
It's roaring with pain = It's pouring with rain
Sealing the hick = Healing the sick
Go help me sod = So help me God
Pit nicking = Nit picking
Disgusting bowel feast = Disgusting foul beast
I'm a damp stealer = I'm a stamp deale
Hyperdemic nurdle = Hyperdermic needle
Wave the sails = Save the whales
I was chipping the flannel on the TV = I was flipping the channel on the TV
Mad bunny = Bad money
I'm shout of the hour = I'm out of the shower
Lead of spite = Speed of light
This is the pun fart = This is the fun part
I hit my bunny phone = I hit my funny bone
Flutter by = Butterfly
Bedding Wells = Wedding Bells
I must mend the sail = I must send the mail
Cop porn = Popcorn
It crawls through the fax = It falls through the cracks
My zips are lipped = My lips are zipped
Bat flattery = Flat battery
Would you like a nasal hut? = Would you like a hazel nut?
Belly jeans = Jelly beans
Eye ball = Bye all
Fight in your race = Right in your face
Ready as a stock = Steady as a rock
No tails = Toe nails
Hiss and lear = Listen here
back-asswords = ass backwards
mood fart = food mart
clot shock = shot clock
fire truck = friar tuck
sparking pot = parking spot
larking pot = parking lot
haystack=stay hack
power surge = sower purge
word math = mad worth
word switch = sword witch
scout troop = trout scoop
foot prints = put fwints

Feb 19 2000

Accessed Feb 19 2000

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sock it to me

Sock it to me is certainly American in origin; how it got from meaning in the sense of 'tell me, give it to me, hit me, shoot,' to a phrase that was "at once meaningless and very meaningful and carried - among other ideas - a vague, implied sexual invitation" has a "Verrrry interesstink!" story to tell.

Three decades ago, television audiences alternately groaned and hooted as the "sock-it-to-me" girl Judy Carne and fellow comedian Dan Rowan (direct from beautiful downtown Burbank) debunked the literary virtuosities of The Odyssey:

    Dan: "Read any good books lately Judy?"
    Judy: "Well, right now I'm reading that old Greek saga The Odyssey."
    Dan: "You mean Homer's epic?"
    Judy: "It may be an epic to you but it's a saga to me."
Saga to me--get it?


..... buckets of water, an avalanche of Ping-Pong balls, custard pies and a trap door along with enough risqué merriment to keep water cooler conversations bubbling on Tuesday mornings about one of TV's hippest Monday night show called Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. Airing on the NBC network between 1968 and 1973. In addition to sock-it-to-me, they launched such punitive witticisms as:"Here come da judge" and "You can bet your sweet bippy!" while catapulting a giggly blond by the name of Goldie Hawn and dry witted Tsarina of switchboards Lily Tomlin into the media mainstream; even Dick Nixon make a cameo appearance and quipped:

"Sock it to ME?"

Outrageously popular it transitioned television entertainment from the stand up comedy on The Ed Sullivan Show to the next generation of the related variety show Saturday Night Live.

This wasn't the first time the phrase was used of course. It dates from some time around the 1850s and the earliest example in print that's been discovered so far is from a book published in 1866 about the American Civil War including the following quote:

    "Now then, tell General Emory if they attack him again to go after them, and to follow them up, and to sock it to them, and to give them the devil".
One linguist gives his opinion about this particular source:
    Pretty clearly this comes from a much older low slang use of the word sock, meaning to hit or punch, to give somebody a heavy blow, to assault or beat someone. There was also the phrase to give someone sock, to give someone a thrashing. These date back to the late seventeenth century in Britain, and were presumably carried to the USA by emigrants. We still have that sense of sock in phrases like "The driver socked him on the jaw" (plus the wonderful American sockdolager for a knock-down blow, which seems to owe its origin in part to a mental link with sock).
An issue of a 1968 copy of the Saturday Review mentions that the expression "Sock it to 'em" was used in The Grapes of Wrath written by John Steinbeck in 1939. In the novel of one the characters, a used car salesman uses the phrase "sock it to 'em" to unmistakably mean equally in context both, "to apply ultimate sales pressure" and "to screw."

The Queen of Soul stood the phrase completely on it's head with her late sixties legendary version that has since become a legendary success with its never-to-be forgotten "sock-it-to-me" background part; to many it turned into an anthem for women's rights. Aretha Franklin's purity of tone, her tremendous feeling for inspired variation and her unparalleled dynamics entranced producers, engineers and musicians alike. Executive Vice President of Atlantic Records and producer of the song "Respect" Jerry Wexler reflects in an interview on Franklin's recording of the song:

    "...when we recorded the sides in this album... there was one unvarying reaction: every time Aretha began a song, the musicians would shake their heads in wonder. After each take was completed, they would rush form the studio into the control room to hear the playback.

    "She took Otis Redding's "Respect" and turned it inside out, making it deeper, stronger, loading it with double entendres. She and her sister Carolyn (along with Erma, sang background vocals) came up with the famous "sock it to me" line.

    For Otis, "respect" had meant the traditional connotation, the more abstract meaning of esteem. The fervor in Aretha's magnificent voice demanded that respect and more: respect also involved sexual attention of the highest order. What else could "sock it to me mean? Given the political climate, respect became a touchstone of an era of emerging ethnic and feminist pride. Aretha's "Respect" resonates on a number of levels and lives on".

As one chapter in the phrase sock it to me saw its heyday in the 60's beginning with Aretha Franklin cutting her 1967 unstoppable R&B hit and the sock-it-to-me girl Judy Carne picking it up a couple of years later. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin complained to the NBC about the censoring of their sexual puns and political jabs on the show. The networks response was to end the piecemeal editing by canceling the show, meanwhile CBS stepped in with their hayseed rip off combination of Laugh In and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour called Hee-Haw prompting Leonard Nimroy to pun, Does NBC know this show is on?

Well since there's no more Gary Owen's sock -it-to-me time; no more Sweet Bippys, or Flying Fickled Finger of Fate, then that must mean it's...

"... time to say Good Night Dick"

Good Night, Dick.


Dewey Webb | Pulp Fiction
Accessed Oct 27 2002

"Respect," Aretha Franklin:
Accessed Oct 27 2002

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: The Burbank Edition (World Publishing Company, 1969)

World Wide Words
Oct 27 2002

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Dedication to my Wife

    To whom I owe the leaping delight
    That quickens my senses in our wakingtime
    And the rhythm that governs the repose of our sleepingtime,
    The breathing in unison

    Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other
    Who think the same thoughts without need of speech
    And babble the same speech without need of meaning.

    No peevish winter wind shall chill
    No sullen tropic sun shall wither
    The roses in the rose-garden which is ours and ours only

    But this dedication is for others to read:
    These are private words addressed to you in public.

    TS Eliot (1888-1965)

When Samuel Johnson wrote, "the promises of authors are like the vows of lovers" surely he intended to convey the fleeting moment of expressions. No part of a book is so personal as the dedication. The long hours of labor are done, it is where the author descends from his platform to disclose the names of those who have weathered his hopes and fears, proffered sympathy for his difficulties, and provided defenses or defiances, according to their temper, against the stumbling blocks which he anticipated. Beginning in the 15th century publishers were naming authors with regularity on play title pages, writers themselves were starting to compose dedications for their plays. Printed plays were not only monuments to their authors' literary accomplishments, but were vehicles for patronage as well, but by the 19th century dedications to friends and family became commonplace.

A Dedication to My Wife first came out as an introduction to TS Eliot's last play The Elder Statesman and then, slightly revised, as the final piece in Complete Poems 1909-1962. Drafted originally in 1955 it was finished three years later and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1958. The popular social drama contains some of Eliot's most tender and expressive theatrical dialogue and is the third of Eliot's plays to have been successfully produced at the festival before opening in London. The backdrop of the play is Oedipus at Colounus and Eliot relates in an interview that he refers to his Greek originals as points of departure rather than models; more like a springboard where the situation has been established by Greek myth then rethought in modern terms. From this setting he developed his own characters then created another plot out of it.

His last poetic production is a romantic comedy portraying the moral renaissance of a man who, after a long life of public achievements, at last accepts his private disappointments. It is significant because it is one of Eliot's most sympathetic treatments of humanity. Philip Hope-Wallace of The Manchester Guardian summarizes the play:

    What Mr. Eliot wishes to tell us in The Elder Statesman is something profoundly true and important: that we cannot flee the past or `retire' from responsibility - we can at best only off-load it by contrition. And that to find `the truth that shall set you free' you must lay by all pretense, all `acting' to others and yourself and become again as a little child. Furthermore, that to enter into reality is only possible through others; so that totally shared love is the supreme road to reality, and that as such (and this is the greatest difference between this new play and the earlier ones) love is capable of being self-sufficient, provided it is love which is founded on true confession and resignation.

Forty-four years earlier Eliot had spent the summer of 1914 at a seminar in Marburg, Germany, with plans of attending Merton College, Oxford by fall. The looming war hastened his departure and by August he had arrived in London The following spring Eliot's friend Scofield Thayer introduced him to Vivien Haigh-Wood. Eliot was immediately attracted to the dancer who possessed an exceptional frankness and charm. On an impulse they wed in June 1915. "His parents were shocked," says Ronald Bush in T. S. Eliot's Life and Career," and then, when they learned of Vivien's history of emotional and physical problems, profoundly disturbed. The marriage nearly caused a family break, but it also indelibly marked the beginning of Eliot's English life. Vivien refused to cross the Atlantic in wartime, and Eliot took his place in literary London."

Six years after their marriage Eliot's father passed away leaving behind a deep guilt in his son who thought he would have more time to heal the bad feelings caused by his marriage and emigration. Simultaneously Vivien's emotional and physical health declined, and the financial and emotional strain of her condition took its toll. Near the end of the summer Eliot suffered a nervous collapse and, on his doctor's advice, took a three month's respite beginning on the coast at Margate, then at a sanitarium and finally in Lausanne, Switzerland.

No one is sure if it was the rest that helped, but soon after his collapse Eliot overcame a relentless writer's block and finished a lengthy poem he had been working on since 1919. Gathered together from a group of dramatic vignettes based on Eliot's London life, The Waste Land's bizarre passion sprang from an unexpected mingling of sundry materials into a metrical fullness of vast talent and courage. It was recognized as an effort of jazz like syncopation--and, resembling 1920s jazz, in effect iconoclastic. The poem was bathed with Eliot's horror of life and claimed by the postwar generation as a rallying cry for its sense of disillusionment.

After 1925 Eliot's marriage gradually worsened. Separated from Vivien, the poet refused to consider divorce because of his Anglican beliefs and for most of the 1930s he isolated himself from Vivien's frequent unrestrained attempts to humiliate him into a reunion. Sadly by the end of the decade she was committed to a mental hospital north of London and died in Januray1947. In her essay Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt Doris Enright-Clark Shoukri writes:

    Vivien, I believe, failed him not only because she was sick and neurasthenic, but because she did not share and, therefore, could not reenforce (sic) his memories of a first world. She was part of his relational experience. She did not inspire him to lyric expression or at least his lyricism expresses neither his desire for her nor his awakening to life in his love for her. She may, indeed, have inspired the mood of despair apparent in The Waste Land in the notes to which he expresses his adherence to Bradley's (1846-1924) belief that one's, "external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it..."

Following the war, Eliot turned entirely to literary compositions and plays, the most noteworthy of which revisited the French symbolists and the progress of language in twentieth-century poetry. After Vivien's death Eliot led a secluded life and the following year he received the Order of Merit and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. It would be another decade before Eliot remarried. Valerie Fletcher was 38 years younger than her husband when they were married in 1957 and it is this poem A Dedication to My Wife that celebrates the happy marriage that followed. His steadfast loneliness, his desire for the vanished simplicity of his early life was eased by contentment likened to "immediate experience."

T.S. Eliot, accompanied by his second wife Valerie.

The relaxed nature of the poem with its matter of fact opening becomes beautifully insecure by the last line shaping a credible apotheosis for the hero. By the time it was published several generations had already joined in with his poems that opened in bashful hostility leading up to shrewdly blunt poetic moods. Today some prefer the forceful grimness of Eliot's colder spring while others take pleasure in reading Eliot's only outspoken love poem. With its "... breathing in unison/ Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other" Eliot returned and drastically reworked the mind-set articulated in The Waste Land where bodies smell dreadfully unpleasant and where there is no place for a word like "lovers" that is unaccompanied by irony and devoid of savage purpose. Eliot at last confiscated the opportunity of this final work to revisit and dote upon his oft-evoked images of roses and rose gardens where he acts the part of the poet-as-autobiographer, for autobiography is a steady reassessment of experience. As a result of this effect the verse loses merit. In his lines to her, there is no pretense, no density, no isolation, and consequently almost nothing Eliotic. Such verses might have readers rejoice for Eliot the man, but it's impossible to equally rejoice in the experience of fulfillment that was so late in coming because we would have missed the "rose-garden" which his loneliness made, not hers-- but ours as well. We "should have lost a gesture and a pose."


Index of Authors, A Dedication to My Wife
Accessed August 13, 2005.

Lidia Vianu on Four Quartets
Accessed August 13, 2005.

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, by Doris Enright-Clark Shoukri
Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics © 2001 Department of English and Comparative Literature, American University in Cairo.
Published by Department of English and Comparative Literature, American University in Cairo and American University in Cairo Press.
Accessed August 13, 2005.

"The Elder Statesman" and Eliot's "Programme for the Metier of Poetry". Rudd Fleming; Eliot, Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 2, No. 1. (Winter, 1961)
Accessed August 13, 2005.