Everyone know what a Spoonerism is, right? When you metathesise, or switch, some set of segments from one word to another – usually everything before the first vowel – for some sort of effect. For instance, “you have hissed all my mystery lectures” as opposed to “you have missed all my history lectures”, or a favourite of mine “John Hunt is a coward” as opposed to “John Howard…” et cetera.

This morning I heard “It’s one of those toffee gays” instead of “It’s one of those coffee days”.

Purely on the face of it, it looks like two phonemes were replaced with two different phonemes, but looking more closely, this is actually metathesis of some phonological features but not others.

The /k/ from ‘coffee’ and the /d/ from ‘days’ were split up into features. /k/ is voiceless and it is velar while /d/ is voiced and alveolar. The voice feature was retained in each word while the place of articulation was metathesised. So, the alveolar and velar moved across, producing a voiceless alveolar stop, /t/, and a voiced velar stop /g/, “it’s one of those toffee gays”.

Don’t ask me what a toffee gay is though.