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underneath, with a line through it, "poorly." I suppose he was feel-
ing poorly when he wrote the letter. Another was written to con-
gratulate the same man on his wife's recovery from a serious illness.
In it he wrote: "I arn so glad to hear that you are at last relieved
from your terrible burden of anxiety," and underneath, with a line
through it, "debt"—an all too normal association!
Then he sometimes used to make slips in action. The wife of an
Oxford Professor once told me that she had been dining at New College
in the Warden's lodgings, where there is a very fine but very slippery
old oak staircase you have to go down from the drawing-room. When
she was going home the Warden said: "Oh, I'll come and turn on
the other lights and see you safely down the stairs." But when he got
to the staircase he turned out the only light that was on, and pro-
ceeded to lead the way down in total darkness. Luckily his daughter
came to the rescue and switched the lights on.
With all these peculiarities, it was little wonder that the legend
grew. Let us remember that legends grow very readily in old-
fashioned University circles, especially if aided by the inventions of
rather naughty colleagues. Anyhow, this certainly happened in New
College in the 'seventies and 'eighties—with the result that the word
Spoonerism—I cite the large Oxford Dictionary—"was in colloquial
use in Oxford as early as 1885 and in general use all over the country
before 1900."
By now, there are hundreds of these invented stories fastened on
to the legend of Spooner—mostly silly, but some of them, I really
think, have enriched our national stock of humour. Let me emphasize
again that all these are quite certainly mythical. There is a familiar
one which I like very much about his having (so the story ran) made an
engagement to meet a man at a certain public-house in south London.
He came back very, very tired and weary at the end of the day,
without having been able to find the man; but it turned out the
public-house that he had been vaguely looking for was the Dull Man,
Greenwich, whereas really the appointment was for the Green Man,
Perhaps the best of all Spoonerisms are the very simple ones; the
one I think I personally like best is the tale—again quite mythical—
of Spooner having his hat blown off and running after it, saying, " Oh,
please, will nobody pat my hiccup." But there is a very elaborate and
ridiculous one that I rather enjoy. He and Mrs. Spooner—so the story
goes—were taking a vacation in Switzerland,, where he got interested
in glaciers and had been studying books on the subject till he was full
of technical terms like crevasses, and erratic blocks, and moraines, and
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