"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


   I defined 'Gyre' in May and got the wonderful comment from Cat that she was waiting for Gimble!  Some people will have instantly recognised the reference to that superb nonsense poem by Lewis Carol from his 1871 novel 'Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.'  Its playful, whimsical language has given us nonsense words and neologisms such as "galumphing" and "chortle".

What many people may not know is that the first stanza was written while he was in Croft on Tees, close to Darlington, where he lived as a child, and it was printed in 1855 in Mischmasch, a periodical he wrote and illustrated for the amusement of his family. The piece was titled "Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry"

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe. 

(Note the spelling of Gymble changed to Gimble in the 1871 version).  Since Cat joked that she was was waiting for a definition of Gimble I decided to see if I could find one and I found four thanks to Merriam-webster and the Urban Dictionary -

As a verb it can mean to make a face or grimace or to make holes with a gimblet.
As a noun it means a  good-for-nothing or a compulsive liar.

So now we know!

The Jabberwock


  1. I didn't know we owe "chortle" to Lewis!

  2. Well, well, well. I never even thought about what many of the Jabberwock words meant. After all gyring and gimbleing in the area around a sundila seems such an odd thing to do in the first place.

  3. So many fabulous words, so little time. And i love Lewis and the way he strung words together.