In France, contrepeteries are a classic class of word plays, where two sounds in a sentence are inverted to produce a new sentence with a different, funny, often saucy meaning. The spelling is ignored, only the sonority matters.

Wikipedia translates by spoonerism, though spoonerism has a connotation of errors that the French contrepèterie does not have.

Here are a few examples of spoonerisms in English and French (spoilers so that you can play to find them):

  1. (From Wikipedia) In Disney's Snow-White, Doc is prone to spoonerisms, e.g. "Search every crook and nanny" instead of "Search every nook and cranny".
  2. "Daffy Duck" (warning: saucy meaning)

    Daddy Fuck

  3. In French, "Un gain de place"

    Un pain de glace

  4. French and saucy: "Quel beau metier, professeur"

    Quel beau fessier prometteur

  5. And I cannot resist to "On adule en Coree" [We worship in Korea]

    Sorry, decency prevents me to write the solution ;)

This kind of word plays is very common in France. Many writers like to hide some of them in their work, and some newspapers are famous to use contrepeteries for titles of their articles.

Korean is a language whose pronunciation is very regular, so it seems that contrepeteries should be easy to construct. They were invented in France at a time where hierarchy between social classes, etiquette and good manners were strictly enforced and saucy language frowned upon, characteristics that are also present in Korean cultures.

I have been looking for that for a long time now: Are there contrepeteries in Korean?

And, since I guess the answer is yes,

are they popular word plays in Korea? What are some famous examples?

  • I have no idea on how to tag this question...
    – Taladris
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 8:25
  • 1
    I have no idea on how to answer this question. :-)
    – user7
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


There's a classical example in Chunhyangjeon(춘향전):

어 추워라. 문 들어온다, 바람 닫아라. 물 마른다, 목 들어라. ("바람 들어온다, 문 닫아라. 목 마른다, 물 들어라")

It's called 스푸너리즘 in Korean.

  • Hm. Is it still a spoonerism when you switch whole words as opposed to the first sound? (Both cases in this answer are swaps of words, right?—door and wind, water and throat.) Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 2:05
  • @AndrewCheong I don't think it is very easy to create spoonerism in Korean. This answer is actually very close.
    – user7
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 5:37
  • @Rathony - Definitely didn't mean to put this answer down, I enjoyed it :^) I was asking a technical question. But I'm curious, why do you believe it wouldn't be very easy? Korean is native to me, and I can't really explain why it feels this way to me, but the organization of sounds are more... regular? Or something. Such that I think Spoonerisms would be easier to find. For example, "-en-" and "-ou-" have several pronunciations in English—while in Korean, vowel combinations don't vary (as much). Also, it has less consonants, which I imagine means higher density of words per consonant. Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 8:40
  • @AndrewCheong: you can switch sounds that are not at the begining of a word in a contrepeterie (though these ones are the most common), like in the "Daffy Duck" example. It is like a permutation of sounds, a kind of sound anagram. Precisely (according to Wikipedia), only inversion with disjoint supports are allowed: you can inverse sounds A and B, and C and D; but inversing A and B, and then B and C is not legit.
    – Taladris
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 11:23

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