Every public speaker dreads them, but from time to time most make them anyway. I am referring to what are often called slips of the tongue.
Or as Rev. William Archibald Spooner might say, tips of the slung.

Spooner, who died Aug. 29, 1930, was an Englishman whose name is given to the linguistic gaffes now known as “spoonerisms.”

Born in London, Spooner became an Anglican priest and a scholar. During a 60-year association with Oxford University, he lectured in history, philosophy and theology.

I have long enjoyed Spooner’s humorous statements and have often intentionally – and sometimes unintentionally – made similar ones.

As I head toward the bathroom, sometimes I will say to June, “I’m going to shake a tower now.”

Some time ago, when I was eating a tasty dish that June had prepared, I said, “These puffed steppers sure are good!”

(As you recognize, those are spoonerisms for “take a shower” and “stuffed peppers.”)

Back in 1995, the Reader’s Digest published an article titled, “Reverend Spooner’s Tips of the Slung.” (The title of this column and some of the spoonerisms below have been taken from that article.)

Spooner would have trouble speaking correctly when agitated by his students, it seems.

He reportedly reprimanded one student for “fighting a liar” (lighting a fire) on campus. He complained to another, “You hissed my mystery lecture” (missed my history lecture), and said in disgust to yet another, “You have tasted two worms” (wasted two terms).

Spooner was also excited when Queen Victoria visited Oxford. He proposed a toast to “our queer old Dean” (dear old Queen).

Some of the goofs were made in Chapel: “Our Lord is a shoving leopard” (loving shepherd), he once intoned.

Then officiating at a wedding, he prompted a hesitant bridegroom, “Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride” (customary to kiss the bride).

And at the church he regularly attended, he said to someone sitting in the pew where he usually sat, “I believe you’re occupewing my pie. May I sew you to another sheet?”

Well, politicians may rarely utter spoonerisms, but they do make “tips of the slung” from time to time.

On Aug. 11, we were surprised to hear Mitt Romney introduce Paul Ryan as “the next president of the United States.” He quickly caught the mistake himself. In 2008 then-candidate Obama similarly introduced Joe Biden as the next president.

We shouldn’t make a big deal out of verbal gaffes, though. Most have no significance at all.

Rather, we should be concerned about the clear and deliberate statements that politicians make.

On Aug. 19, Rep. Todd Akin who is seeking election as a U.S. senator from Missouri, made a statement about “legitimate rape.” This has been referred to as a “misstatement” and a “gaffe.”

Perhaps it was, to a certain extent. But it seems clear that his opposition to abortion is absolute.

Again in 2011, he and vice-presidential nominee Ryan, among many others (all Republicans), were co-sponsors of the “Sanctity of Human Life Act” (HR 212), which declares that human life begins with fertilization, “at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” No exception is made for rape or incest.

During these next two months of intense political campaigning, let’s laugh off the spoonerisms or other verbal goofs the candidates may make.

But let’s give serious attention to what they say intentionally about important issues of the day (including, but certainly not limited to, abortion) – and then vote accordingly.

Leroy Seat was a missionary to Japan from 1966-2004 and is both professor emeritus of Seinan Gakuin University and pastor emeritus of Fukuoka International Church. This column appeared previously on his blog.

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