A Tribute: Reverend Dr. William Archibald
William Archibald Spooner
was born in London on 22 July 1844. When he was only eighteen, he won a
scholarship to New College, Oxford, through which he took two first-class
degrees - in classical moderations and humanities. It was rumoured at the time
that Spooner’s success at winning this scholarship was based in part on his
outstanding footballing ability (the Dean of the college maintained a keen
interest in young boys, particularly those with an athletic stature). His
connections with the college remained for over 60 years in various capacities
ultimately as warden and revered founder member of the College’s six-a-side
As has become well known,
Spooner had a nervous tendency to sometimes transpose initial letters or
half-syllables in speech. These sometimes hilarious transpositions became known
in 1885 as Spoonerisms. Dr. Spooner's occasional transpositions created a
craze of imitation amongst his students that spread like filed wire.
His famous speech lapses
are thought to have resulted from the difficulty he may have had reading.
Spooner was an albino and as such, suffered from defective eyesight - he was
also short in stature with a head disproportionately large in relation to his
body. Indeed his appearance has on more than one occasion been likened to that
of a rabbit or perhaps a weasel. This tendency towards Spoonerism led many
people to mistakenly presume that the man was a sandwich or two short of a
picnic, however it is now widely recognised that he was instead a smart feller
but occasionally a shining wit.
Perhaps one of Dr.
Spooner’s most well known and authentic transpositions was recorded when the
great man was entertaining fellow Oxford Alumni in the refectory of New College.
He was heard to say when regaling his peers with colourful stories “The way that
she cradled my bunky chollocks gave me to enjoy perhaps the west bank I ever did
1970 memoir historian Bill Gore wrote, "In spite of [his eccentricities] . . . ,
he became a worthy and respected Warden, and successfully managed the college's
six-a-side football team for many years. Indeed he was in his day a player of
great stature in his own right, feared by defenders from around the country, his
array of skills and cunning stunts entertained the large crowds that came to
Spooner however was unusually coy about his footballing talent, choosing not to
discuss any aspect of the game when off the field. Who could have predicted then
that some 65 years after the befuddled weasel’s passing that this footballing
legend could live on. He never could have guessed that his absent minded
ramblings could provide the inspiration behind the forming of the greatest
football team Shenley has ever known and over a decade of kinship that is Bunky
(It is understood
that a portrait of the beloved creator of the genre still hangs in New
College to this day. Unfortunately no photographs were ever taken so by
way of compensation here is a photo of his daughter, Rosemary, also a keen
footballer, who represented the Henton Deffers old girls until shortly
before her death).
Some popular Spoonerisms.
"Blushing crow" for
A well-boiled icicle"
for "well-oiled bicycle."
"I have in my bosom a
half-warmed fish" (for half-formed wish), supposedly said in a speech to Queen
A toast to "our queer
dean" instead of to "our dear queen."
Upon dropping his hat:
"Will nobody pat my hiccup?"
At a wedding: "It is
kisstomary to cuss the bride."
Paying a visit to a
college official: "Is the bean dizzy?"
Addressing farmers as
"ye noble tons of soil"
A stern reprimand to a
misbehaving student: "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted
two worms…leave immediately by the town drain!"
Have you seen her sick
Want your favourites adding? Check the Spoonerism thread
on the forum and the Webmaster will update here in time.....