Real Life Considered in the Context of a Lewis Carroll Poem

I’ve been a fan of writers like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear for years, simply because I enjoy a good bit of nonsense every now and again. The Victorians had a gift for it, probably in reaction to the sense of decorum and propriety that infected the bulk of that era—at least on the surface. One thing I especially liked were all the made-up words, words that sounded like they should mean something but really don’t. Like “jabberwock” and “vorpal” and “mimsy.”

One had to be careful with LC, though. He tended to mix real words with the made-up words, only the “flavor” of the real words and the fake words was so matched that it was hard to tell them apart. Take “mome” for example. It’s an archaic word meaning “fool,” but in context it seems just as made up as “rath,” though it’s possible that Carroll took “rath” from “rathe” which means to bloom early, and used it for a flowery sort of creature. Which explains why, for the longest time, I did not think “burble” was a real word.

Turns out I was wrong.  “Burble” means to make a murmuring sound, like a babbling brook, and had been in use since the 14th century. It’s also a technique in pennywhistle where you rub one finger back and forth over the holes quickly to get a similar sound.

If there’s a point to this, other than word play, perhaps one could point out that it is far too easy to confuse nonsense with reality. Which is the only thing that can explain the current political climate. Maybe we all need to listen and consider more carefully when decision time comes again. Nonsense may have its place, but real life isn’t one of them.


Story Time: Brillig

This week’s Story Time, with apologies to Lewis Carroll, is “Brillig.”

I’ve always loved the poem “Jabberwocky,” partly because it never made a lot of sense, mostly for the wordplay. Reciting it aloud, which at one time I could do, always struck me as asking for trouble, however. Why? Darned if I know. But I thought it worth thinking about, which is one way a story will manifest–just thinking about something and writing it down. About the same time, Sean Wallace at Prime Books (later publisher of the Yamada series) was putting together a short run of weird fiction chapbooks called, wait for it, Jabberwocky. This one appeared in Jabberwocky #2.