Ontiaxidants and Other Spoonerisms

I have the highly amusing (for others of course) knack of mixing up vowels or consonants in words sometimes, and it’s usually out and said before I’ve realised or had time to think about it, in other words Spoonerisms. It’s usually quite entertaining and I can only laugh along at what my brain has come up with. One of my best ones happened a while ago while I was talking to a friend at work and I meant to say “antioxidants” but came out instead with the pearler “ontiaxidants”! What?!! I can’t even imagine where that would have come from! There was no hiding it or pretending it came out right at all as she’d heard it clearly, and we both burst out laughing! The fact that it sounded a lot like “aunty accidents” just added insult to injury and we’ve since got a great deal of entertainment-mileage out of that one.


Another thing my brain (yes, it sometimes feels like my brain operates as a separate entity to the rest of me as it causes my mouth to come out and say the weirdest things) loves to do is accidentally combine two words and coming out with one that’s not a word but my brain must have subconsciously decided that it’s more time efficient to make the two words into one and, as is the case with the spoonerisms, it’s out and said before I’ve even realised it. Our family doesn’t usually pass up an opportunity to tease, so this always ends up being cause for some mockery. My latest one was “cream cheese” that became “creese”, but my brain exceeded itself at work the other day (after a hectic and exhausting day I might add, in its defence) and I managed to do something I haven’t done before:  I combined two words into one accidentally while I was writing. I wasn’t even talking. I meant to write “near pearl” but instead wrote “nearl”. I couldn’t believe it! It was like watching someone else do it – I realised as I was writing it but it happened so quickly that it was too late to stop my hand! Quite economical use of words if I may say so myself.


I’ve often, in cases where I’ve caused my family much mirth, reminded them that I didn’t grow up with English as my mother tongue (although I learnt it from a young age), but my excuses fall on deaf ears. Living in a house where we’re trying to keep speaking Afrikaans so the kids will remember it we’ve ended up developing our own curious mixture of Afrikaans and English that language purists would frown upon, but since it’s only spoken amongst ourselves and we’re all able to speak, read and write fluent English my husband and I are just content knowing the kids will always be able to understand Afrikaans. Whether they’ll always be able to make themselves comprehensible in Afrikaans remains to be seen. If you live in an English-speaking country it’s only natural that you’ll speak English most of the time though. As for myself there’s been a slow and subconscious shift in which language I think in which has caught me by surprise a few times. I always used to think and count in Afrikaans but whilst doing a stocktake at work a few years ago I suddenly realised that I was counting in English which came as such a surprise that I stopped and tried to count in Afrikaans and found that it was easier to do it in English! Nowadays I really struggle to give someone my phone number in Afrikaans because I’m just not used to doing it any more.


As is to be expected my language mix-ups extends to text messages as well and autocorrect keeps causing me endless frustration. I have issues typing on my phone as it is because I keep on typing the wrong letter, and I can’t for the life of me work out how some youngsters type so fast on their mobile phones. To make matters worse, when I text in Afrikaans I’ll have autocorrect trying to correct my typing when there’s nothing wrong with it and if I don’t notice it in time it will substitute my typing for what it thinks I should have said forcing me to go back and re-type it (sometimes twice) and I end up talking to this inanimate object in exasperation saying to the phone: “That’s not what I wanted to say!” My son, child No 1, suggested to me a few years ago that I change the default language on my phone to Afrikaans but that would never work since I also type in our peculiar mix of languages, and of course English. I can only imagine autocorrect’s confusion at that. My messaging is probably autocorrect’s worst nightmare as it is – it’s probably in a constant state of confusion attempting to decipher what it is that I’m trying to type!


I let slip another beauty a little while ago when I wanted to ask child No 2 whether she was going to warm up the leftover soup that she was about to eat, but instead my brain decided that it was better to ask her if she was going to wake it up (the mix-up is more justifiable in Afrikaans (honestly!) as the two words sound very similar, but it’s equally funny), which was of course cause for much laughter as well as child No 2 leaning forward over the bowl of soup and calling out: “Wake up! Wake up!” They show me no mercy, this family of mine!


With child No 2’s month-long student exchange trip to Reunion Island we’ve had some French being thrown into the mix as well, which presents its own challenges and some language mix-ups as is to be expected. I admire people who are fluent in several languages because some of us struggle with only two. When Ironman sent her a message the other day to ask if she was enjoying speaking so much French and her reply came back: “Oui! Oui!” (which means: “Yes! Yes!”), he asked me: “What does this mean: Oi! Oi!”? Basics! I just laughed. For a welcome change the joke was on someone else.


One thing I can say in my tongue-twisting defence though, is that I’m not the only one befuddling things. Ironman had us on a little wild goose chase the other day on our way to friends of ours’ new house. He’d looked up the address (two weeks prior I think) but when we were nearly there he couldn’t remember exactly where it was and so I looked it up on Google Maps but the only street with that name was two suburbs away. He was quite adamant that it was called “Windward Loop”, but Google Maps insisted it wasn’t there, and there’s no arguing with Google Maps. We ended up having to pull over so he could check the invite again on his phone, and it turned out that we were actually looking for “Woodland Loop”. Hmm, shall we say spoonerism or man-erism?

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