What's That Flat?


A phrase (or, less commonly, a word) becomes another when the initial consonant sounds in its component words (or stressed syllables) are swapped. Spoonergrams are always phonetic; spelling may change. Examples: Morse code, course mowed; or key ring, reeking. Note: unlike most flat bases, those of spoonergrams don’t have to be dictionary entries.

SPOONERGRAM (9, 5 *4) (*4 not MW)

“That TWO bit, no-good grouchy cuss
That he is, is at the door.”
“Oh, Henry, is he suing us?”
“Why, no, pet, fret no more.
He called to say he’d bring us, dear,
A ONE he took of me
The day that twister threw me clear
Into the apple tree.”


The solution: telephoto fella Toto .

For a list of sounds considered single and indivisible, see PHONETIC FLATS.

Although the spoonergram usually involves swapping two sounds or sound clusters, sometimes only one sound actually moves. Examples: four inches or finches ; or trained seal strained eel . Since the spoonergram is purely a phonetic flat, word boundaries needn’t be preserved. For example, if ONE is White Plains, TWO may be either plight wanes or ply Twain’s, since the two are phonetically the same. Another example: deer wakes, weird aches.

Not every word in the spoonergram need change. Example: rake over the coals cake over the rolls . Words that don’t change are noted with the puzzle.

Sometimes more than two words are involved in the swapping of sounds. Example: cold sailor rowed the tipping boat bold tailor sewed the ripping coat .

Many possible spoonergram variations are made by swapping sounds other than the initial consonants. (Example: light red, let ride, swapping vowels.) Provide an example with each puzzle of this sort, so that the solver knows which sounds are swapped.

In a phrase spoonergram, a familiar phrase (which does not appear in the verse or the solution) is spoonerized to form a new phrase. The original phrase is in some way hinted at by the verse. Example: the shaming of the true The Taming of the Shrew .

The spoonergram was introduced by Emmo W. in March 1945.