By Ahmed

2019-01-08 13:44:41 8 Comments

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


@Oldbag 2019-01-09 00:14:05

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.

@tox123 2019-01-09 02:49:29

Do you have any sources for this expression?

@SliceThePi 2019-01-09 16:53:09

I've always heard it as "bass-ackwards".

@Joe 2019-01-09 16:57:26

@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)

@tmgr 2019-01-09 16:58:02

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.

@CodeMonkey 2019-01-08 18:01:43

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.

@Nuclear Wang 2019-01-08 19:10:57

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".

@WhatRoughBeast 2019-01-09 02:17:37

@NuclearWang - Sorry, but no. One of Spooner's best-known malaprops is, "Pardon me, Sir, but I think you are occupewing my pie."

@BoldBen 2019-01-09 08:22:35

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.

@Nuclear Wang 2019-01-09 13:53:23

@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.

@Mitch 2019-01-08 14:18:51

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


@Robusto 2019-01-08 14:25:06

I don't know if it matters, but a 'peckerwood' and a 'woodpecker' are not the same thing.

@Mitch 2019-01-08 14:40:16

@Robusto yes, though etymonline euphemistically considers them synonymous.

@hatchet 2019-01-08 22:30:42

Reminds me of the comedian shtick of Rindercella and her gairy fodmother.

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