Category Archives: fun with words

Modern Words That Came From Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’

Did you know that Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” gave us words that we use today?

The web site “Interesting Literature” recently published an article about the poem’s affect on the English language. Today, I’m sharing part of that article with you,

but first here’s the Jabberwoky poem with a twist
(set to music by the Scottish singer/songwriter, Donovan):

The following is from “Five Fascinating Facts about Jabberwocky” (InterestingLiterature.com)

1. The poem ‘Jabberwocky’ gave us a number of new words which are now in common use. The most famous of these is ‘chortle’, a kind of laugh that is a blend of a ‘chuckle’ and a ‘snort’. But the poem – which was written, of course, by Lewis Carroll – also gave us the word ‘galumph’ (to walk clumsily and noisily) and ‘slithy’, in the sense of ‘lithe and slimy’. ‘Jabberwocky’ may also have influenced our modern use of the word ‘mimsy’, though this remains difficult to determine (‘mimsy’ already existed with a similar meaning, though Carroll’s poem probably helped to popularise it).

2. Humpty Dumpty, who explains the poem to Alice, also invented another word. The term ‘portmanteau word’ is now used by linguists to describe words such as ‘chortle’ and ‘slithy’ which combine, or blend, the sounds and meanings of two existing words. (Other famous examples include ‘brunch’, from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’, and, more recently, ‘chillax’, from ‘chill’ and ‘relax’.) In Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass (1871), Humpty Dumpty tells a bemused Alice: ‘You see it’s like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word.’ A portmanteau is a sort of case or bag which opens out flat into two halves – so Humpty’s use of the term (we hope he won’t mind us assuming first-name terms with him, but if he does – well, he’s an egg, for goodness’ sake) is a sort of metaphorical representation of the two halves of a ‘portmanteau’ word, whose meanings and sounds are then packed up into one unit (e.g. brunch). ‘Portmanteau’, by the way, literally means ‘cloak-carrier’, since the bag was used to carry clothes around.

3. There is a computer program inspired, and named after, ‘Jabberwocky’. The poet and new media artist Neil Hennessy created JABBER: The Jabberwocky Engine, a Java program which can generate neologisms, or new coinages, much in the manner of Carroll’s poem. Random letters are programmed to group together into probable English words. It’s an intriguing idea, though perhaps nonsense poets will be rendered obsolete by the program? We hope not – and we doubt it.

Interested? Do you want more?

Read the entire article: “FIVE Fascinating Facts About Jabberwocky”
on the Interesting Literature website.

_____________________________

Are you on Facebook? Check out my page where I post daily articles and inspiration for writers. And while you’re there, I’d appreciate it if you’ll click on the “like” button near the top of the page. Thanks!

_____________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Famous Authors, fun with words, Poetry, unusual words, words

9 out of 10 Writers are Guilty of “Doing Quisby.” Are You?

Do you hang out on social media when you should be writing?
Then you are guilty of doing quisby

an old slang term for idling away your time. But don’t worry, you are not alone. When the muse is silent most writers will do anything to avoid writing.

Some are bedpressers, sleeping in until their muse wakes them, or maybe sleeping late because the muse woke them in the middle of the night.

An elusive muse might cause writers to let out an unexpected, guttural humdudgeon—a loud complaint or noise. (An alternate meaning for humdudgeon is “an imaginary illness or pain,” and there’s another excuse for not writing.)

A missing muse can lead to phobias like ergophobia, the fear of work, and allodoxaphobia, the fear of other people’s opinions. (“Here you are procrastinating instead of writing.”) And not writing when you should be writing can lead to kakkorhapiophobia, the fear of failure.

Writers who have Cacoethes scribendi (a Latin term meaning “a compulsive desire to write”) suffer terribly when their muse disappears for a while. They might use alcohol to soothe the pain and become capernoited— “slightly muddled in the head as a result of drink.”

Other writers resort to accismus.

Accismus: (noun) The pretended refusal of something one keenly desires.
“I didn’t really want to write today anyhow.”

Most writers know that eventually their muse will return and everything will be oojah-cum-spiff, a phrase meaning “just fine” created by P.G. Wodehouse, one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century.

Maybe you are a cunctator. You are if you should be writing but are here doing quisby. A cunctator is a person who procrastinates.

Does that describe you?
Then get busy and start writing!

 But don’t forget to come back here to the blog the next time you’re doing quisby.

____________________________

Thanks to the web site Interesting Literature for these wonderful words. You might also enjoy my post 9 out of 10 Writers Have Hypergraphia. Do You?

_____________________________

Are you on Facebook? Check out my page where I post daily articles and inspiration for writers. And while you’re there, I’d appreciate it if you’ll click on the “like” button near the top of the page. Thanks!

_____________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

4 Comments

Filed under fun with words, unusual words, words

Fun with Spoonerisms

I worked with the queen of Spoonerisms. She twisted words and letters, accidentally in her case, to create humorous phrases. For example, she told me, “I have my pinger on the fulse of the department.” Of course, she meant the idiom: “I have my finger on the pulse of the department.”

Spoonerisms—words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped—got their name from the Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844-1930), Dean of New College in Oxford, England. Apparently, he made these verbal slips:

fighting a liar

lighting a fire

You hissed my mystery lecture.

You missed my history lecture.

cattle ships and bruisers

battle ships and cruisers

a blushing crow

a crushing blow

nosy little cook

cozy little nook

our queer old dean

our dear old queen

We’ll have the hags flung out.

We’ll have the flags hung out.

You’ve tasted two worms.

You’ve wasted two terms.

a half-warm fish

a half-formed wish

Is the bean dizzy?

Is the dean busy?

 Shel Silverstein uses Spoonerims brilliantly in his rhymes, like in this stanza from his billy sook, Runny Babbit.

Runny Babbit lent to wunch
And heard the saitress way,
“We have some lovely stabbit rew—
Our Special for today.”

If used wisely, spoonerisms can be integrated into your writing, sparingly, to add unexpected humor to an otherwise dramatic scene:

Boy leans in for his first kiss, but the girl turns away. Disappointed and rattled, the boy says,“What’s the katter? Don’t you like misses?”

The list of spoonerisms is endless. Read more about them on this site: Fun With Words. Then consider having a character use one or two in your next work of fiction.

_____________________________

Are you on Facebook? Check out my page where I post daily articles and inspiration for writers. And while you’re there, I’d appreciate it if you’ll click on the “like” button near the top of the page. Thanks!

jan2015FB

_____________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

4 Comments

Filed under fun with words