Recently I came across the expression "dain-bramaged". I assume that there are other seemingly flippant instances of the exchange of initial consonants of words, but is there a general term for such a practice?

Edit: Please note, this refers specifically to (a) initial consonants only, and not to whole syllables, and (b) intentional, not accidental or ignorant, exchange of consonants.

Second edit: By popular (and quite reasonable) demand, I am emphasizing that, yes, these are spoonerims. So what I'm looking for is a name for the paricular activity of deliberately creating a spoonerism by changing only initial consonants or consonant groups, and changing only that.

  • There is not, as far as I know, a term in English for that refers specifically to switching the initial consonant(s) in two words, and nothing else; spoonerism is a broader term that encompasses this, but also covers other switchings. There is an expression for it in Danish, though: bakke snagvendt (‘balking tackwards’ literally translated), which originated in a children's TV show back in the 1980s. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 21 '15 at 0:40

It's known as a spoonerism¹, and it's not solely restricted to consonants):

Per ODO (Oxford Dictionaries Online):

spoonerism: a verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence "you have hissed the mystery lectures" accidentally spoken instead of the intended sentence "you have missed the history lectures."

Though I quibble with the characterization that the transposition must be accidental.

Wikipedia confirms it can be a deliberate play on words:

A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis) between two words in a phrase.

My personal favorite spoonerism is butterflies flutter by.

¹ As Wikipedia notes, the broader phenomenon is know as metathesis, the famous example being the substitution of nucular /ˈnjuːkjələr/ for nuclear.

  • 2
    The mnemonic for metathesis is, of course, methatesis. See also haplogy and wabiawization. – John Lawler Sep 20 '15 at 21:11
  • Note: that article is incorrect in calling nucular a case of metathesis. It's not metathesis; nucular consists of entirely different phonemes than nuclear. It's a case of a rebracketed word getting its not-so-common suffix swapped out for a more common one that happens to have almost—but not quite—the same phonemic structure. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 21 '15 at 0:37
  • Spoonerisms are usually accidental. This switching is meant to be cute. – Bill Evans at Mariposa Sep 21 '15 at 17:37
  • @Bill Read the second quote and citation in my answer, please: everything after "I quibble with the characterization that the transposition must be accidental", through "A spoonerism is .. or deliberate play on words", down to "My personal favorite spoonerism is butterflies flutter by". – Dan Bron Sep 21 '15 at 17:38
  • @BillEvansatMariposa: That just makes it a deliberate spoonerism. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Sep 21 '15 at 17:38

They're called spoonerisms, after Reverend William A. Spooner. Look here for a linguistic analysis: The non-anomalous nature of anomalous utterances.

  • Spoonerisms are usually accidental. This switching is meant to be cute. – Bill Evans at Mariposa Sep 21 '15 at 17:38
  • @BillEvansatMariposa, So? – Greg Lee Sep 21 '15 at 19:19
  • Yes, it's a spoonerism. See the second edit to the original question. – Bill Evans at Mariposa Sep 23 '15 at 0:18

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