I often dream of words or phrases which I recognize as jokes or riddles after I wake up. The other night it was “morny in the earling,” which happens to be right about the time I have this sort of dream. But perhaps I only remember my dreams when they come in the hour or two before waking.
“Morny in the earling” sounds a bit Edward Lear. It is a Spoonerism, “an error in speech or a play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels or morphemes are exchanged.” I love these. Here are a few famous ones attributed to old Spooner himself, a Warden of New College, Oxford who died in 1930:
“Three cheers for our queer old dean!”
“Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?”
“The Lord is a shoving leopard.”
(addressing farmers) “Ye noble tons of soil…”
(to a student) “You have tasted a whole worm!”
My all time favorite is the title of a hymn which Spooner mangled: “When Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take.” But I have myself witnessed a Spoonerism that was just as good. A nervous fellow once came a courting on a hot summer’s day in the Deep South, and told my mother and me how refreshing it is “to drink a titcher of iced pee.”
Another verbal oddity which I recently dreamt was entirely different, but almost as amusing. I woke up thinking “Can I Ciarán Hinds until I need glasses?” which sounds like gibberish. Unless you happen to be a Robin Williams fan. And then it makes perfect sense.