Magazine article Word Ways

Sounding of the Pun: The Official Spoonerism Game

Magazine article Word Ways

Sounding of the Pun: The Official Spoonerism Game

Article excerpt

In my semi-definitive but now tragically out-of-print spoonerism book Cruel and Unusual Puns, I spoke somewhat disparagingly of a familiar type of children's riddle. Example: What's the difference between a church bell and a burglar? One peals from the steeple; the other steals from the people.

My objection was that jests of this variety are invariably contrived. The paired phrases spoonerize but they are otherwise arbitrary and unrelated. In contrast, transposition wordplay that is equipped with a context--a story or other setup, preferably one that is natural and logical-qualify as esthetically and morally superior.

I still hold this view, but my position has evolved. I am reluctant to reject the "arbitrary" spoonerism genre in toto, in part because my archive contains lots of original specimens that aren't suited to a story or joke format. Fortunately, I realized that they might be appropriate for a brain-teasing quiz. At last, I reasoned, these orphans would find a good home.

Here's the drill: I supply a set of "definitions." From those clues, you must decipher the two intended spoonerized phrases. Sample problem: Antique thread-making device/Oration that receives accolades. Answer: Spinning wheel/Winning spiel.

Get the idea? Then sigh these on for tries! The openers are easiest, then the challenge becomes progressively tougher. Warning: some clues are tricky and unfair. When ready to surrender, please turn to Answers and Solutions.

1. Billiard equipment/Best seat in church

2. Scottish lair of legendary monster/What homeowners wish Jehovah's Witnesses would do

3. Popular ablution option/What occurred in Babel

4. …

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