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Passions in Poetry

Digital Passions
Poetry Magazine

Digital Passions #4
published July 21, 2000


Editor's Column by Sunshine
Rambles from Ron
Active PageWord Play by Doreen Peri
Potty Party poem
... Humorous Nature by Christopher Ward
Upwardly Challenged poem Craig Walker
Interview - Kit McCallum by Sven
Limericks by Nancy Ness
Inspiration by StarrGazer
The Meeting poem Poet deVine
The Final Word by Poet deVine
End Notes / Unsubscribe

Read It All (one big page)

Rambles from Ron Potty Party poem

Word Play: Puns, Spoonerisms, & Malapropisms
by doreen peri

About a year ago someone asked the definition of "malapropism". What ensued was a somewhat lengthy discussion about "word plays," which we all found quite enjoyable. Since this newsletter issue has a theme of humor, we thought we'd talk a bit about the difference between several types of "plays on words" and let the readers in to some of our previous discussion.

Basically, there are three different types of "play on words" recognized and defined in the English language (well, there may be more than three, but as far as I know these are the main three) - Pun, Spoonerism, and Malapropism. I've always enjoyed this type of humor and often, even in every day speech and to the point of boring friends and relatives, throw one in. (I'm really not TRYING to get a laugh - I just can't help myself. LOL). OK, so here we go with some definitions. (I love this stuff!)

#1 Pun - "A pun is a CLEVER AND INTENTIONAL play on words and humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound." [Emphasis added]

Here's an Example of a pun:

"There were 12 rabbits and we divided them in the pen, 6 on one side and 6 on the other side. I can't believe my mother said we were splitting hares!"

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#2 Spoonerism - "William A. Spooner [died 1930, English clergyman & educator] First appeared 1900 - a transposition of usually initial sounds of two or more words"

Example of a spoonerism:

Saying "tons of soil" for "sons of toil".

Another famous spoonerism (to my family, at least) is the joke about a baseball pitcher by the name of Mel Famey who drank too many beers before pitching the game. Punch line, "It was the beer that made Mel Famey walk us." (The beer that made Milwaukee famous.)

And there's another joke about a piano tuner by the name of "Oburnokity" who would only tune a piano once. When asked why, he said, "Oburnokity only tunes once."

#3 Malapropism - "The usually UNINTENTIONALLY humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially, the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context"

From a web site about malapropisms called Conan the Grammarian: "Mrs. Malaprop, for whom these misused words are named, was the leading lady in Richard Sheridan's 'The Rivals,' a late eighteenth-century play about a lady whose husband came into some money and who was thrust into the uppercrud of society. Mrs. Malaprop did not want to seem out of place, so she simply used big words to appear genteel. Malapropisms are in the same class as spoonerisms and puns, but are not for the feint of heart."

Examples of malapropism (quoted from another web site):

The man is an idiom.
He wears shoes made of stimulated alligator.
I resemble that remark!
We had a 15 inch erotic house plant in our living room.
I need the afternoon off to attend my brother's consummation.
That's a mute point.

So, I hope you all enjoyed these! And may your speech and writing be fiddled with run. I mean riddled with fun. And may you enjoy your next erotic vacation, oops, I mean exotic vacation on an island in the Pacific. Geesh!