Friday, October 17, 2014

Jabberwocky: Whimsical Neologisms

“Jabberwocky,” a poem penned by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel, Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There, is considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English. Delightful to read aloud, the poem’s singsong cadence, made-up words, and vivid imagery demands the reader’s interaction.

from: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
By Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

The words made little sense to Alice, “It seems very pretty," she said when she had finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand!" (You see she didn't like to confess even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas--only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate---"

The whimsical language created for the poem by Carroll resulted in three neologisms (newly coined words that fall into common usage) and a plethora of nonsense words:

Jabberwocky: meaningless speech or writing.

Galumphing: to move with clumsy and heavy tread.

Chortle: a snorting, joyful laugh or chuckle; a combination of the words “chuckle” and “snort.”

In the book, Humpty Dumpty tried to explain the gobbledygook for Alice. He described “rath”as “a sort of green pig.” In his notes, Carroll described it as “a species of badger that “lived chiefly on cheese” and had smooth white hair, long hind legs, and short horns like a stag; appendixes later described it as “a species of land turtle “that lived on swallows and oysters.” No one truly knows. Have you ever seen one?

Frabjous: a combination of fabulous, and joyous.

Frumious: a combination of fuming and furious.

Gyre: to go round like a gyroscope.

Mimsy: Humpty described mimsy as “flimsy” and “miserable.”

In Jabberwocky-fashion, Douglas Adams included a poem in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly

Oh freddled gruntbuggly thy micturations are to me
  As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee my foonting turlingdromes
  And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my
  blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!

Wanna have some fun? Try fabricating fabulous new words yourself. Use Jabberwocky, Dr. Seuss, and "Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly" for inspiration; refer to your dictionary and thesaurus for information; and let your imagination fly.

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