Feeling a little ‘mimsy’ perhaps? – Lewis Carroll

Looking at humour in poetry … the Victorian-age did produce some creative light relief from the conservative life of text … one of the most famous pieces being …

the first and last stanza …

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

From Through the Looking-Glass, Chap 1

Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898) = Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Anglican deacon and lecturer in mathematics)

Humpty Dumpty’s explication:
Brillig = 4 O’Clock in the afternoon … the time for broiling things for dinner
Slithy = lithe and slimy … two meanings packed into one word -a portmanteau word
Toves = a combination of badger/lizard/corkscrew … make nests under sundials and live on cheese
Gyre = to go round and round like a gyroscope … it does in fact mean circular motion
Gimble = make holes like a gimlet = a small tool for making holes
Wabe = grass plot around a sundial … it goes a long way before it and a long way after it
Mimsy = flimsy and miserable
Borogrove = thin shabby looking bird with its feathers sticking out all around
Mome = short for ‘from home’, Rath = green pig
Outgrabe = outgribing = something between bellowing and whistling with a kind of sneeze
From Through the Looking-Glass, Chap 6

Out of all the nonsense words above slithy and mimsy have a wonderful feel and quite an acceptable explanation or should I say they are quite texplanable.

If you are feeling creative have a go at creating portmanteau words. (Portmanteau = a large suitcase consisting of two parts that fold together.) See if you can come up with something really interesting. For example – gentle and kind = kindle. However, a word of warning when working with children … work with an Alice who knows what is right and proper … we do not want to destroy the spelling of the correct words! … i.e. before becoming too proright.

You could also try the reverse and take a genuine word and break it into two components e.g. bright = brilliant and light … I’m not sure what you call this – the unpacking of the suitcase to view the contents?

It is no surprise though that such creative (all be it nonsensical) words were the result of writing for children who love such play and it is a wonder that more new words did not migrate to colloquial use.

… and here’s truly hoping you are not having a mimsy day!

and this is a Website link to the full Jabberwocky poem

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