Clued In (Blogs)

Clued In #19 | Knives, forks and spoonerisms

 |  06 April 2020

Hey there, and welcome back to Clued In!

Crosswording is all about finding mirth in mistakes. Amusement in bemusement. Fun in feints... Basically, it’s a safe place where you can chill out knowing that error is the very lifeblood of the activity. And there’s no better proof of this than one of cryptic crosswords’ most fallible yet whimsical clue types.


EVERYMAN | 27 Across

Clue surface: Word-botching and the like? (11)

Definition: Word-botching and the like

Clue type: &lit.


Explanation: ‘Word-botching’ is literally what a SPOONERISM is all about. ‘And the like’ tells you it needs to be in plural, so you add an S. Also, maybe there is an added layer of meta-referencing in the clue where the setter has used ‘Word-botching’ as a spoonerism of ‘bird-watching’!

So, once upon a time (well, actually, in the 1800s), there lived a Reverend William A. Spooner who was Don at the Oxford University. He was a flaky sort and supposedly tended to get his words mixed up in comical ways. So, if he meant to say ‘swap letters’, he might end up blurting out ‘lop sweaters’ instead. Or he might cite sources when outlining site courses. Or he’d refer to himself as a dear Queen rather than a queer dean.

Spoonerisms are basically creatively swapped syllables. And they can conjure up really ticklishly quaint images in your head. Of course, crossword setters have so many other tricks up their sleeve that spoonerisms are generally seen as low-hanging fruit and resorted to sparingly.



sounds like: spoon-uh-riz-um


— the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow. (

Synonyms: solecism, mistake, misspeaking, slip of the tongue

Etymology: 1895–1900; after W.A. Spooner (1844–1930), English clergyman noted for such slips of the tongue.


Can you think of any amusing phrases created by letter-swapping? Let us know in the comments if you come up with any wood guns (oops, I meant good ones!).

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