Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Carroll’

Search terms

These are things that people have searched for on the internet and ended up at my blog. Some of them must have been gutted as they were clearly looking for some important information and got me instead…

chocolate keys 60 count
large elephant vs bus
graham lockey
beautiful small heart tatoos on up of arm
thanks driver
what happened in laura?
woman and dog sex
law exams last minute
jaberwocky lewis carroll banned
the web of lies
stick figure stupid faces
hairy chat inbox
physical filing made easy
pregnant swimming picture
cow peppa pig
diary of making a wedding cake
chan man sin v a-g of hk
thanks friend but i’m alright
just reg
i wet myself at my ballet
peppa pig evil
scientifically minded wordpress
dinosaur tattoo
n is for spid
dennis hopper song lyrics
gourmet chocolate truffles
winston churchill chose to rebel
fool heavy neck
kindle university library doj
croquet rules hitting someone else’s ball
french word can i have
fat lady in swimming pool
highgate paparazzi
think of the worst manager you’ve ever had
what is art for a. p. herbert
where all can i do skydiving and bungee jumping


Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)

Freedom Literature

The next in our guest blog series on freedom. Enjoy!

After Freedom RulesFreedom Music & Freedom Art we now come to Part 4 which I’m calling Freedom Literature.

Once again this is a vast subject and I can only take a brief look at it. Hopefully it may prompt a few thoughts in your mind. I’m going to take just a couple of examples and, as in previous pieces, ask some questions. Let me start with: how is freedom portrayed in literature? And what sort of freedom? There are plenty of biographies about people who have fought for causes to free others or for their own freedom. There are those written about bringing new freedoms to situations or to countries where they don’t have them. I’m going to take just a couple of examples from novels to illustrate how a couple of writers have treated the subject. You may have others you feel illustrate the point as well.

Let’s begin with Indian-born George Orwell (1903-50, real name Eric Arthur Blair) and his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948). In the land of Oceania The Party rules and Winston Smith imagines how he could rebel against Big Brother. Once again the loss of basic freedoms is apparent from very early on as we see how the society works. The rebel, the main protagonist, in this book and in Bradbury’s below, is a heroic figure battling the discriminatory dictatorship ruling his world. As soon as we read of his situation we want to side with him and see him victorious. We want to see the lost freedoms he is fighting for restored.

Next, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) written just 8 years after the end of WW2; a film followed in 1966 and it’s well worth catching if you can. Like Orwell’s book Bradbury’s has been described as a dystopian novel and, at times, has also been banned or considered “intellectually dangerous to the public” (Wikipedia). It looks at American society in the future where books have been banned; the freedom to read taken away and, in this case, replaced by the government’s TV broadcasts. However not only are the books banned but they are burned by the authorities. The people employed to do the burning are called “firemen”. (Throughout history the burning of books has been undertaken by various regimes or groups within a society as a means of control.) The aim is simply to stop the spread of ideas contrary to what those in power want. In Bradbury’s novel the burning campaign is quite extensive. Even so, the firemen are always looking for more books to destroy and for people who may not be obeying the rules. Given the risk of being discovered some individuals, who oppose the government policy, come up with a plan: they will preserve the content of the books by memorising them. They have to move out of the city to somewhere in the countryside to avoid detection. One person, in the group, memorises one book, another person another book and so on. Although the book is gone, the knowledge of that book will not be lost to future generations.

The freedom to write whatever you want is probably epitomised by the content & style of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). Most readers of more than just a few pages, without a commentary or notes on it, will struggle to remember what they’ve read and what might it mean.

Nonsense verse has a number of famous examples. For just a couple, think of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, (begins ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe) and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat,(begins, The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea green boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note). The Mayor of Scuttleton by Mary Mapes Dodge and Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly by Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz (Douglas Adams) add to the list of meaningless poems. So freedom may produce nonsense; interestingly forms like this do, however, use a regular form of poetry to do it – hmm..).

The minute we move into the controversial areas of politics, religion & sex in literature we come to that, now familiar, territory of whether I should consider if I am causing someone, who reads my writing, to be offended. Should I care? Or should they just “Get over it”? Does the society I live in have the right to legislate about what I can write? Do we need censorship & specific rules to govern the publishing process? If we don’t have them what happens?

Among the many books which speak of freedom, you may be surprised to know that The Bible has these words, (in the book of Galatians): “ not use your freedom as an opportunity to do wrong but through love serve one another.” Here the emphasis is very much on the responsibility that comes with having freedom. This has to be a vital element in the smooth functioning of any society. If individuals don’t take responsibility for the consequences of their actions it will be a very selfish society that is created – a sort of “I want whatever I want – no matter what you think.” Not good.

I wonder what you or I would do if we had to take charge of the publishing industry. What would we allow into print? And what not? It’s tough isn’t it. If we allow anything, we could easily be accused of letting corrupting influences take hold; if we restrict, we may be accused of being too negative or censorial in our attitude. Should publishers be accountable to the society they release material into? Are there books you would not like your children to read? Why?

There are so many questions because it’s such a difficult area. Perhaps you’d like to make a comment on a blog. If the blogger doesn’t like it, it won’t show or will be taken down if already posted. Is even that restricting your freedom? The further you look into it the harder it gets.

Should revealing details of the operations of the military and security services, in print, be banned? Just this last week, it was reported in the UK press, that the Ministry of Defence tried to block a book written about British forces in Afghanistan. The author said, of those responsible for the situation: “To paraphrase George Orwell, if liberty means anything at all, it means the freedom to tell people things they don’t want to hear….” Is the author right?

As with the other areas, Freedom Literature seems to raise more questions than it answers. Surely somewhere along the line there must be some form of literature control otherwise anyone could publish whatever they want about whatever subject or person they choose? And then we run into the scenario in the poem at the end of my previous Freedom Art blog that morality ceases to exist in this area. Can that be right?

Interestingly, this day (30th May) in history has not been kind to writers:

1. In 1593, English dramatist, Christopher Marlowe died.
2. In 1744, English poet, Alexander Pope died.
3. In 1788, French writer, François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire died.
4. In 1960, Russian poet & novelist, Boris Pasternak died.

Finally, in 1431, although not a writer as such, Joan of Arc died. (She wrote a number of letters to various groups & people.) She is most famously remembered for the bringing of freedom to the city of Orleans which had been under siege by the English, 1428-9. (This eventually led to the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles VII.)