Kalliope On Line Poetry Workshop Banner




Join Us





Please sign our Guestbook


Fun with Words Part 2

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
-- Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll

There is a great shortcut to not being able to find the right word.

Make one up.

If you are really, really good at it, your word will catch on with other people and eventually enter the common language and be printed in standard dictionaries.

Even if that doesn't happen - it's FUN.

Lewis Carroll actually wrote explanations of at least some of the words he used in Jabberwocky. I have a serious suspicion that the explanations were about as serious as Jabberwocky, but they are almost as much fun to read.

The following is an excerpt from the prologue to "The Hunting of the Snark."

As this poem is to some extent connected with the lay of the Jabberwock, let me take this opportunity of answering a question that has often been asked me, how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i" in "slithy" is long, as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so as to rhyme with "groves." Again, the first "o" in "borogoves" is pronounced like the "o" in "borrow." I have heard people try to give it the sound of the "o" in "worry." Such is Human Perversity.

This also seems a fitting occasion to notice the other hard works in that poem. Humpty-Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all.

For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards "fuming," you will say "fuming-furious;" if they turn, by even a hair's breadth, towards "furious," you will say "furious-fuming;" but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious."

I wanted to play, too, after reading that, so I wrote:

Seattle Jabberwalk

Seattle, and the wriving blobes
Did sime and bimble in the mair.
The frimsy ecyule bemmy'obes,
And the pome groech outwair.

"Beware the Sub Yum Guk, my son!
Kimchee that bites! Ivar's that catch!
Beware the Seahawk Bird, and shun
The Slug No Whale Can Match!"

He took his sonner blade in hand,
Long time the gingrich foe he sought;
Then rested he by the Esook Tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in epoph thought he stood,
The Sub Yum Guk, peppers aflame,
Came skorming through the cringly wood,
And burbled as it came!

One-two, one-two, and through and through,
His sonner blade went snickersnack!
He cut it dead, and with its head
The big galumph ran back.

"And hast thou slain the Sub Yum Guk?
Seattle's safe from Chinese Food?
Oh Thaizza day! Calloo Callay!
Let's go write something good."



globular blokes

street singing and mime

nimbly bumming money


freely spending money on whimsical gadgets,
like a one-cup espresso maker that works over a campfire and fits in your backpack

ecologically and socially sensitive yuppies, who frimsy

got into their BMW's

poets, at home in coffeehouses

grunge poets, with money, who drink exotic coffee and hang out all day

wore out their chairs

Sub Yum Guk
Chinese food

Korean food

Well-Advertised food

referring to two bands of aspiring heroes whom local legend says will conquer all foes,

a bit of real nonsense

required elements in the resting habitats of the Seattle Native

philosophy expressed in a series of self-conscious epigrams.
the usual mode of thought in Esooks.

Sub Yum Guk
I told you this one already.

the effect of a bagpipe band bearing down on you

cringing, with hands over tingly ears.
the common reaction to skorming.

Thai food + pizza
the two main Seattle foods

you'll have to ask Lewis Carrol about this one.

ask Lewis Carrol about this one too.

Calloo Callay
definitely ask Lewis Carrol about this one.

Exercise: Made-Up Words

Pick one of the following situations and write a poem of at least twenty lines telling the story, in words of your own invention.
  1. Two ten-year-olds have an epic pillow fight.
  2. On the way to an urgent appointment, you spend two hours looking for a parking space.
  3. You once again evade doing laundry or dishes, for the 90th day in a row, in spite of all problems this is creating. (Nobody else in your household is doing them either.)
  4. Your favorite sports team wins a close-fought game.
  5. Your area finally has:
    • the BIG rain
    • the REAL flood
    • the long awaited mudslide
    • earthquake
    • volcano
    • Invasion from New York
    • any combination of the above

Then include a set of footnotes explaining the origins of each word. Be as scholarly or as absurd as you please.

Guidelines for critique:

  1. Did the sound of the nonsense words flow along with the rest of the language?
  2. Did you have a sense, before reading the footnotes, that the nonsense words actually meant something, if you could just figure it out?
  3. How much can you figure out of the meaning intended, from the context of the words, their construction, or other clues, before reading the footnotes?
  4. Did the sound, or other qualities, of the created words add to the sense and enjoyment of the poem?
  5. Were the footnotes also fun to read?

Critiques may also address other aspects of the poetry, but be sure to cover the above points.

Write On!