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
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
The following is an excerpt from the prologue to "The Hunting of the
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, 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."
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
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
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.
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.
- Two ten-year-olds have an epic pillow fight.
- On the way to an urgent appointment, you spend two hours looking
for a parking space.
- 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.)
- Your favorite sports team wins a close-fought game.
- Your area finally has:
- the BIG rain
- the REAL flood
- the long awaited mudslide
- 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:
- Did the sound of the nonsense words flow along with the rest of the
- Did you have a sense, before reading the footnotes, that the nonsense
words actually meant something, if you could just figure it out?
- How much can you figure out of the meaning intended, from the context
of the words, their construction, or other clues, before reading the
- Did the sound, or other qualities, of the created words add to the
sense and enjoyment of the poem?
- Were the footnotes also fun to read?
Critiques may also address other aspects of the poetry, but be sure
to cover the above points.