Posted by: Jack Henry | March 6, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Words Coined by Lewis Carroll

Good morning! I’ve been out of the office for the last couple of weeks, but before I left, I shared words coined by two famous authors: Charles Dickens and Samuel Coleridge. At the request of my friend, Chris W., today I’m sharing some whimsical words coined by novelist Lewis Carroll (author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and many wonderful stories and poems).

I found these whimsical words and their definitions in THE WEEK online magazine. I have shortened some of the lengthy descriptions, but if you want to see the full descriptions along with examples of the words in use, click this link. Enjoy!

· boojum
The boojum is "a particularly dangerous variety of snark," an imaginary creature of Carroll’s invention. The word boojum has inspired the naming of everything from a species of tree, native to Baja California, Mexico…to a supersonic cruise missile…to a geometric pattern sometimes observed on the surface of superfluid helium-3…

· chortle
To chortle means "to exclaim exultingly, with a noisy chuckle." According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Carroll coined the word as a blend of chuckle and snort.

· frabjous
Frabjous means "great, wonderful, fabulous," and is a blend of either fabulous and joyous, or fair and joyous. "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" cries the narrator of The Jabberwocky upon learning that the Jabberwock has been slain.

· galumph
Galumph means "to move heavily and clumsily," and is a blend of gallop and triumph.

· jabberwocky
The Jabberwocky is "a nonsensical poem that appears in Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll…Jabberwocky came to mean "nonsensical speech or writing" around 1908, says the OED.

· mimsy
Mimsy was coined by Lewis Carroll in 1855 as a blend of miserable and flimsy. According to the OED, by 1880 mimsy also came to mean, in British English, "prim; careful; affected; feeble, weak, lightweight."

· portmanteau word
A portmanteau word is "a word formed by merging the sounds and meanings of two different words." A portmanteau is "a case used in journeying for containing clothing," and comes from the French porter, "to carry," plus manteau, "cloak." Carroll coined portmanteau in 1882 based on the idea of "two meanings packed up into one word," says the Online Etymology Dictionary.

· slithy
In 1855, Carroll combined slimy and lithe to form this nonce word. However, slithy as a variation of sleathy, "slovenly, careless," has been around since 1622, says the OED.

· snark
Snark referring to "an imaginary animal" was coined by Carroll in 1876 in his poem, The Hunting of the Snark, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. In the 1950s, snark was the "name of a type of U.S. cruise missile and in 1980s of a type of sailboat." The word snark also has the meaning of "to snore; to snort," which originated about 10 years before Carroll’s imaginary animal, according to the OED. This gave rise to snarky, "rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide," or "irritable or short-tempered; irascible," around 1906, which gives us snark’s modern meaning of "snide remarks."

· vorpal
Vorpal meaning "sharp or deadly" was coined by Carroll in 1871. In the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, the vorpal sword is a sword "capable of decapitation, specifically through magical means," which aligns with the plot of The Jabberwocky: "One, two! One, two! And through and through / The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! / He left it dead, and with its head / He went galumphing back."

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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  1. “Snarking” is older than Carroll’s “Snark”:

  2. […] if the reader is willing, brings them into philosophical engagement. They introduced a number of new words, including chortle and, of course, jabberwocky. And they gave readers puns. So many puns. And puns […]

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