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Wonderland Words

31
Jan
2012
 

By Miranda

One of the joys of reading aloud to the younger members of one's family is that, after finishing Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, you can progress to Through The Looking-Glass in which lies the never-ending pleasure of Jabberwocky. Yes, we can still recite this from memory and do, on long road-trips and, sometimes, in less appropriate situations. No, we're not mad, just having fun with words.
 
Which was exactly what Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was doing in Alice. And, in his explanation of the poem Jabberwocky (courtesy of Humpty Dumpty) he gave linguistics the term 'portmanteau word' to describe the combination of two words into one which contains elements of the sounds and meanings of each parent word. Thus 'slithy', as in the "slithy toves who were gyring and gimbling in the wabe", meant the toves in question were both 'lithe' and 'slimy'.
 
Of course, the English language is full of such creations, many of which have become so ordinary that one forgets that blends/portmanteaux* such as 'motel' have been used for nearly a century.
 
But there are limits, she screams.
 
Well, perhaps not so. I am a firm proponent of recognising the natural evolution of language. I rejoice in the acquisition of new terms and word-creation drawn from whatever source, be it from physics or fashion. So now I'm just going to have to wear 'jeggings'.
 
Well, not literally, since the mind-picture evoked by my donning such a combination of jeans and leggings is not a pretty one.
 
But the invention, first of the garment and second, of the name for it, complies with all the natural laws of fashion and language respectively (including the quite reasonable assertion, 'leggings are not trousers') so if jeggings is the word of the year for 2011 in some (hind)quarters, I must bear it with equanimity.
 
Or perhaps start an 'Occupy Jeggings' movement?
 
 
* Observe the affected plural - if the word 'portmanteau' has been drawn into English, which it has, then its plural form should probably be 'portmanteaus'. Worse, in French the word no longer has the association of 'suitcase', so apt for packing much diverse meaning and noise into a given space, which caused Carroll to use in the first place. Now, the French term is closer in meaning to the notion of the 'silent valet' or 'clothes horse'.
 
Miranda
 

15 Responses to

Wonderland Words

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zoey2697 said:
February 01, 2012 at 1:06 AM

heyy what do u mean

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Xrosie said:
February 01, 2012 at 7:37 AM

I read to my children, but with computors etc, will the children of today be able to read to their children, will they even know the joy of reading classics etc. All they do is plug an earphone in and shut the world of imagination out.

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said:
February 01, 2012 at 4:32 PM

is good for the kids to be able to read a book without sitting at a computer... they love there parents to read to them

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kragzy said:
February 01, 2012 at 5:32 PM

I've often thought that there is no single word that describes that moment where you walk towards someone in a corridor - they move the same way as you do, and then the other way, and then back again, and so on. Sort of a corridor shuffle, or perhaps a 'corruffle'.

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February 01, 2012 at 9:51 PM

What about a passuffle for a passing shuffle because it happens in more than corridors?

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RedRump said:
February 02, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Our grandkids love being read to, as our children loved being read to when they were young. I don't think the love of reading will ever die out, although we might be reading to children from an ebook!

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kragzy said:
February 02, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Nice thought stitchpuzz. You made me think of 'pas de deux' which literally means 'steps of two'. Why shouldn't we ordinary walkers steal a ballet term and use it for ordinary life?!

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ange68 said:
February 02, 2012 at 11:20 AM

"leggings are not trousers." I have a pair of treggings from the UK!

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mommyscat said:
February 02, 2012 at 11:33 AM

My youngest son is allergic to calcium and soy so when he was little we had a word which was unique to our little family. It was teabletje, a combination of tea and tablet(in dutch) because he would have an effervessant calcium tablet in his morning bottle of tea.

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February 02, 2012 at 1:02 PM

I love words and love reading. I recall with some amusement all the silly words my children said as they were growing. I once heard that as children learn their native tongue they actually say a lot in foreign tongues, but their family don't realise it. Has any one else heard this?

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said:
February 02, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Yes arcticprincess! I'm convinced my 2 year old speaks in Spanish sometimes - perhaps he's watched one too many episodes of 'Dora the Explorer'?

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relle said:
February 02, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Jessie, our middle son has lived with the name Roo for 30+yrs because his older sibling couldn't pronounce Andrew at the time. He has collected so many Roo things over the years that he now has a bar room, named The Roo Bar.

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February 02, 2012 at 5:38 PM

It would not surprise me if babies and toddlers uttered words from other languages. They all start babbling sounds and then combining them. They also probably manage to say a few words in English that only brilliant wordsmiths and people in highly specialised fields are aware of !

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February 03, 2012 at 9:54 PM

arctic princess if you can find a book by Bill Bryson called 'MOTHER TONGUE' he explains what you are saying.

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minidevil said:
February 06, 2012 at 1:15 PM

I always told my children that books are special & will be here long after the computer & TV blows up. I have read to my children since they were born. People said I was crazy reading to babies; they couldn't understand a thing I said, they reckoned. They are 9 & 7 now & I still read to them albiet only once a week but I often catch the younger one sitting in bed surrounded by all her toys, reading to them. That's proof enough for me that I wasn't as crazy as people said.