Though she drools over its ice creams and mocktails, my dear friend Abeli could never say Baskin Robbins. She ends up blurting Robinson Basket! Nor can she say Pollito’s. Here she says Poplins. She gives us a good laugh but her slips are not exclusive. Because someone else in my creative family never could address Ms Margaret Alva without ending up saying Alvaret Marga. And the dear husband would unfailingly say that he ‘picked his fork with his pork’. It scared the breath out of our poor lungs for we thought it was a disease. But then, the breath was boot right pack into our lungs when we found that there were others too whose tongues played truant by belching out phrases like Farty was pun when what they had actually wished to say was Party was fun! Then someone told me about this History teacher who told one of his students, Why did you hiss my mystery lecture? The student took a while to decode it as Why did you miss my History lecture? And when the student gave vague reasons for being absent for that particular history lecture, the teacher yelled at him, Now that’s a lack of pies!! The poor student looked down at the tip of his sneakers, confused. Suddenly he realized, his respected teacher must have meant …a pack of lies! Why, of course! …he thought, the joy of deciphering his teacher’s reprimand triumphing over the embarrassment it caused him.
The other day a friend’s brother excitedly proclaimed, ‘Meet the one I can’t do without,’ and he raised a toast, ‘LAME PEE!’ The dinner hall fell pin drop silent for a moment, before a thunderous uproar rocked the room. He was introducing his newly married, Chinese wife to us at a dinner and the wife, Pamela Lee, blushed through her rouged cheeks.
These slips and swapping of letters or syllables in words or phrases, rear deeders, is strangely called spoonerism. I used to wonder why, for the symptoms of spoonerism had nothing to do with a spoon nor did they have anything ever to do with feeding. Till I read about William Archibald Spooner. He was the Wean and Darden…oops! Dean and Warden of New College in Engford, Oxland. And yes, he was the one whose mystery lecture the unfortunate student had hissed! And it was from him that the term Spoonerism arrived.
Now as I sit back and reflect, I remember a certain friend’s mother who, when I once called up and the phone happened to be answered by her, said ‘Your friend’s shaking a tower’. So I left a message with aunty for my friend, about visiting a new shopping mall in town. Aunty it seems told her, Well, its about going to see a mopping shawl! ‘So what?’ Aunty justified her slip, ‘there was also this brave Captain who ordered his men to open fire upon the enemy. Glow your buns! He roared. A part of his army started groping into their knapsacks to look for buns. The rest instinctively unzipped and blissfully started scratching their itchy behinds to give them a glow and a shine! And meanwhile, the enemy reached up to them and before the Captain could re-roar a second command, he was shot dead.
Ah! The hazards of writing on spoonerism! I’m falling prey to saying taplop and almost forgetting to stalk trait. As for the two members of my imaginative family, one was so long grateful that her Excellency the President had such convenient initials to her name that even if they got swapped, they would yet all remain ‘P’s. But now, with the presidential elections gaining momentum, he is losing much sleep over some rehearsals, learning not to say Manab Pookherjee or Surno Pangma The other member’s sung still tlips and out comes Prime Minister San-mo-Han Ming!
So who said only the Gandhi’s are dynastic rulers?