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In a stew over slip of the tongue.


WE presenters and public speakers have a number of dreads: a dry mouth and a wet patch on the trousers (where you just spilt your last-minute drink); giving the wrong speech in the wrong venue (and no-one noticing); dreaming you're giving the worst presentation in your life and waking up to find you are.

Those are taken as read.

But the one that many of us worry about (mainly because it happens all too frequently) is foot-in-mouth disease, where you plan to say one thing and it comes out completely differently. Your speech ends up with shafts of wit and other spoonerisms.

Spoonerisms are the least of your worries (or the weast of your lorries), though they can get you into trouble. Referring to your orthodontic administrative audience as "rental deceptionist" is mild enough, and you might get away with calling your political colleague the Barking Member with a lack of pies rather than the Member for Barking with a pack of lies.

But beware of phrases like "tool kits", "smart fella", "shoots but can't hit" and "pheasant plucker." And positively avoid mentioning people who fill your soul with hope.

No, the spoonerism is one word-nightmare of many, or a bad case of word-flu. Foot-in-mouth disease often creeps up when you are lulled into a false sense of security.

I was once talking to a highly religious audience and was asked about the so-called 'melting pot' of cultures. Throwing caution to the wind, I rambled: "It's not a melting pot, the world community is more like a stew: all the ingredients come together but retain their individuality; the carrots retain their carrotness, the beans their beanness and each and every pea positively relishes its peaness." Oops.

I once saw a top medical doctor reduced to a gibbering wreck when a medical student asked him how to tell if a patient was ticklish. He glibly replied: "Give her a test tickle."

Full gibber status was achieved when he was asked about the newly-developed fertility treatments that were, at the time, resulting in quadruplets, quintuplets and even-more-tuplets. He blurted out that it was just "one almighty error," except he didn't say "error." It rhymed with mock-up.

I'm pleased to say surgeons managed to remove the foot from his oral cavity under general anaesthesia. But it was a close run thing.

Dr Ray Lowry is a recently-retired public health dentist, doctor, academic and former gag writer for the Two Ronnies who now earns a crust as a stand-up comedian, after-dinner speaker and coaching presentation skills.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2013
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