Shifty Grades of Fey

Today’s, groan, Bizarro:

An elaborate play on the title of E. L. James’s 2011 erotic romance novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, with a rhyme substitute for each of the content words — shifty for fifty, grades for shades, Fey for grey — with the whole business worked into a fresh scenario.

The James title has been endlessly re-worked by simple word substitution:

Fifty Shades of X, for X = Snail, Greek, Manipulation, Kale, Beauty, …

Fifty Xs of Grey, for X = Dates, Skills, Shirts, Squares, States, Accents, Waves, Frames, Scales, …

(but granting that a lot of these substitutes have the vowel /e/ of shades and grey).

Some of the substitutes for grey are rhymes: Bey, Whey, They, Wray, J.

One of the substitutes for shades is phonologically very close to it — sheds, with /ɛ/ instead of /e/ — and in fact the Fifty Sheds books are broad parodies of the Fifty Shades books.

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s 1 in this strip — see this Page.)

4 Responses to “Shifty Grades of Fey”

  1. Andy Sleeper Says:

    This cartoon satisfies my sudoku neurons, because of this verbal sudoku, or magic square:

    | Fifty | Shades of | Grey |
    | Shifty | Grades of | Fey |
    | Grifty | Fades of | Shey |

    Is there another cartoon about corrupt painting contractors at Shea stadium using sub-par paint? Probably not outside of my mind.

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Not just a rhyme substitution but a spooneristic permutation, as Andy Sleeper implies. Three-way spoonerisms like this are few and far between — here‘s a report of a naturally occurring one: tip-sharing scheme -> ship-scaring team.

  3. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Members of the National Puzzlers’ League take this game even further (though they call it a “spoonergram”). In the NPL’s puzzle-writing guide, there’s a *five*-way example given: cold sailor rowed the tipping boat -> bold tailor sewed the ripping coat.

  4. Andy Sleeper Says:

    Wow, spoonergrams! Thanks, Ben. Here’s a link to someone with examples of four- through ten-level spoonergrams:

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