I was sending a text to a friend recently about foggy Frisco [San Francisco]. As I hit ‘send’ I noticed that the predictive texting had changed it to ‘fight frisco’. Hmmmmm. What else might it get up to? I decided to give it a real test…….Jabberwocky 🙂
So, with many, many apologies to Lewis Carroll…here’s the first verse, courtesy of my phone:
‘Twas brilliant and the slight gives
Did gyre and marble in the wave
All mimsy were the borogro estate
And the moment rather outgrabe.’
OK, so it would appear that gyre, mimsy and outgrabe are genuine English words it has no need to change at all. Off to the trusty OED for clarification.
Gyre, v. appears as a genuine, though rare word, dating back to c1420. It means to Turn, or whirl round.
It is also a noun, from c 1566 meaning: A turning round, revolution, whirl; a circular or spiral turn. The word must have its etymology in the same root as words such as gyroscope then. Mr Carroll obviously knew his obscure old words.
Mimsy, it says, is a blend of miserable and flimsy, nowadays meaning unhappy but…
Only in Carroll and later allusions. So it IS a word, though one apparently created by good old Lewis.
So, finally, we come to the most interesting of all – Outgrabe.
According to the OED, this is a factious word [sounds like another of Lewis Carroll’s creations, that!] and is the past tense of Outgribe. I have copied the entry below:
intr. A nonsense word; (most frequently) to emit a strange noise.
Apparently intended by Carroll as a past tense, but generally understood subsequently as a regular verb, with present tense outgrabe and past tense outgrabed.
If you have access to the OED online, more can be read here:
So, if you thought Jabberwocky was just a lot of nonsense words created to sound amazing, it looks as though Lewis Carroll actually knew his etymology and used it very cleverly indeed. RESPECT!