Today, during a conversation, one of my friends accidentally inverted the syllables of the word "bookmarks" as "markbooks." Then I immediately thought about describing such a mistake in speaking.

I asked my elder brother, who suggested I regard it as stuttering. But sadly, this word doesn't fit well for what I am asking over here, since stuttering denotes the repetition of sounds pertaining to just initial consonants:

verb 1. talk with continued involuntary repetition of sounds, especially initial consonants.

See the following image about stuttering:


In the image above, there's talk of the word "soda", which is written as s-s-s-s-soda to express stuttering.

There might be a word describing the inversion of syllabic utterance of words.

"He said 'markbooks' rather than saying 'bookmarks' because of _____ [in place of the word 'stuttering']"

The word I am asking for here can be a verb (an act of doing what I described here), or noun or noun-phrase to describe such an accidental act.

My question is different from "Is there a term for switching syllables of words?". In that post, the OP's primary question is about the exchange of two different syllables belonging to two different words; as his first example tells "trace" and "race", which are different and both having their own distinct syllables. Whereas my question is about the exchange of syllables within the same word and without dropping any letter(s) of words e.g.:

bookmarks > markbooks

clockwise > wiseclock

Textbook > booktext

  • 5
    Related (but French): Verlan.
    – Glorfindel
    Jan 8, 2019 at 13:46
  • @Glorfindel, the Wikipedia states differently about what I am asking here. As the website says "verlan often drops the final vowel sound after the word is inverted, so femme and flic become meuf and keuf, respectively." // but here my question is not about dropping of any consonants or vowels.
    – Ahmed
    Jan 8, 2019 at 13:56
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Is there a term for switching syllables of words?
    – BruceWayne
    Jan 8, 2019 at 15:05
  • 1
    @Ahmed I see that you amended your question with clarification about what kind of switch you're asking. There's no special word to distinguish your very specific situation from the other very specific situations. Hyperbaton is for word order swaps, spoonerism is for initial sounds of words, metathesis is for any kind of otherwise unspecified swap (but usually for phonemes).
    – Mitch
    Jan 8, 2019 at 16:22
  • 1
    @Ahmed In your example sentence, it looks like you're searching for a speech impediment, can that be right? "He said 'markbooks' rather than 'bookmarks' because of his dyslexia." But there are no names for the specific form of dyslexia where you exchange syllables, I believe.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 9, 2019 at 11:31

3 Answers 3


Any kind of switch in order, whether sounds, syllables, or words, is called:


(/mɪˈtæθɪsɪs/ with accent on the second syllable).

Examples are:

A spoonerism is a kind of metathesis. For example, "A well-boiled icicle" ("well-oiled bicycle").

In rhetoric, changing out of the usual word order is also called


(having numerous rhetorical synonyms like anastrophe or synchysis).

Of course 'metathesis' (not to be confused with 'metastasis' a spread of cancer to a secondary site), is a bit technical sounding. A more natural sounding alternative might simply be




or as you mentioned


These are all mostly intentional (except for a Spoonerism). If what is happening is an actual mistake, then it might additionally be called euphemistically a


  • 11
    I don't know if it matters, but a 'peckerwood' and a 'woodpecker' are not the same thing.
    – Robusto
    Jan 8, 2019 at 14:25
  • @Robusto yes, though etymonline euphemistically considers them synonymous.
    – Mitch
    Jan 8, 2019 at 14:40
  • 2
    Reminds me of the comedian shtick of Rindercella and her gairy fodmother. Jan 8, 2019 at 22:30

The most common term I've heard for this is a "Spoonerism". It's a reference to William Archibald Spooner who was known for making these kinds of utterances unintentionally.

  • 9
    The definition of a Spoonerism isn't ironclad, but I've typically seen it as transposing only the initial sounds of words, rather than swapping the order of compound words. A Spoonerism of "bookmark" would be "mookbark", not "markbook". Jan 8, 2019 at 19:10
  • 1
    @NuclearWang - Sorry, but no. One of Spooner's best-known malaprops is, "Pardon me, Sir, but I think you are occupewing my pie." Jan 9, 2019 at 2:17
  • Spooner may or may not have spoken that way intentionally but most Spoonerisms I have heard and most of those I spoken myself have been deliberate.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 9, 2019 at 8:22
  • 2
    @WhatRoughBeast I'd argue that most Spoonerisms are made by transposing the initial sounds of two words, but you are correct that it's not the only way to make one. I'd still be hard-pressed to call "markbook" a Spoonerism, though, as it effectively reorders entire words, rather than rearranging phonemes to make new words. Jan 9, 2019 at 13:53

There used to be a common expression, "backasswards" - a metathesis of ass-backwards - that could be used to describe this situation:

"You said that word backasswards, you know."

It also has other useful applications, although you don't hear it as much anymore. US.

  • 1
    Do you have any sources for this expression?
    – tox123
    Jan 9, 2019 at 2:49
  • 4
    I've always heard it as "bass-ackwards".
    – SliceThePi
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:53
  • @SliceThePi : me, too, but it usually just means 'completely wrong'. Like if someone claims why something has occurred and attributes cause incorrectly. (especially when they're assigning blame to the incorrect party)
    – Joe
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:57
  • 1
    Much as I like this idea of backassward (and I very much do), Merriam-Webster defines backassward as utterly or ridiculously backward, foolish, or wrong or as equivalent to ass-backward.
    – tmgr
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:58

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