The Omaha World-Herald has reported some great news from Iowa where the national Poetry Out Loud competition at the Iowa School for the Deaf was won with a performance of Jabberwocky. First-time contestant Gabby Humlicek wowed the judges with her choice. “It was a really challenging poem to turn into American Sign Language,” Humlicek said. In rendering Carroll’s nonsense words Humlicek said it helped that “I’m a gregarious signer, and I practiced.” The newspaper reports that Gabby will go on to the state competition in De Moines this March – success there could lead to Washington D.C. and a bid for the national title. We wish her luck!
I couldn’t find an online video of Gabby’s performance, but for the curious I did manage to find another anonymous performance on YouTube. It’s fascinating to try and follow along with the poem. I am not sure what is happening 40 seconds in but I think it might be the frumious bandersnatch and, if so, it is pretty scary. It would be great if any readers of this blog who know ASL could offer us a commentary.
Children’s author Lil Chase compiled a list of her favorite made-up words in the Guardian today. What’s interesting is how many of the words, invented fancifully by literary wordsmiths, have simply become normal English words. ‘Muggle,’ from J.K. Rowling, now is used not only to mean “a non-magical person,” but more widely as being a person outside of some specific interest. Lil Chase lists A.A. Milne’s “heffalump,” Orson Welles’ “ungood,” and others, and of course Carroll:
After slaying the terrible Jabberwock, the boy in Lewis Carrol’s poem “left it dead, and with its head / he went galumphing back.” It’s thought to be a combination of the words “gallop” and “triumphant”. However, modern-day usage is different: picture a sort of ungainly, graceless way of walking with difficulty, the gait of a grumpy teenager, perhaps; perhaps how you might walk if you were dragging a giant jabberwock’s head.
My favourite made up word comes from The Simpsons and it describes all of the words above. It’s “a dubious or made up word, term, or phrase that is entirely plausible because it makes logical sense within existing language conventions”. But it’s best defined by simply quoting the script:
As two teachers stand at the back of the auditorium someone recites Springfield’s motto: A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. Teacher 1:Embiggens? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield. Teacher 2:I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.
Cromulent is an amazing word. I can’t believe I didn’t know it before. It’s like the word ‘sesquipedalian,’ which is a long word which means “a long word.”
The new era of online markets and digital media has of course revolutionized the ability for authors outside of the mainstream publishing industry, or new authors wondering how to break in, to put their work directly into the hands of potential audiences. A new generation of e-book readers and tablet computers (some with the android operating system to compete with Apple’s iPad) coming out this year and next will be shaking up the publishing industry. This could be seen as good news for many Lewis Carroll-inspired authors!
Twas brillig, and Albert finds himself dealing with slithy toves, mome raths, borogoves, and a girl named Alice. The only way that Albert can get home is by slaying the jabberwock and getting into the cave of a snark, which is, unfortunately, a boojum. Wonderland was never so much fun or so dangerous.
It looks charming and also has a character named Floyd-Bob. It’s only available right now as an e-book on Amazon Kindle for $3.99.
We also found a new novel on Amazon with the amusing title Straight Out Of Lewis Carroll’s Trash Can: A Jonathan Tollhausler Adventure, probably self-published because “Spielplatz Novelties” doesn’t appear to exist anywhere else. The author, Michael J. Rumpf, is described as “probably a real person who always loved books, and it was after reading some really great writers [...] that he was inspired to write a book as well.”
No need to report every time a Jabberwocky word is used somewhere, but this was a good one. Alex Ross, The New Yorker‘s classical music critic (and author of the excellent musical/political history of the 20th century The Rest Is Noise), in the middle of complaining about the flood of anniversary-year Chopin recordings, describes a showy pianist’s contribution thus:
Lang Lang, the other big Chinese virtuoso, galumphs through the two piano concertos on [Deutsche Grammophon].
Whether Ross means it in the sense of moving “heavily or clumsily” (Wiktionary) or in the more Carrollian sense of triumphant galloping, is up for interpretation. LCSNA blog followers, keep watching for interesting modern uses of Carroll coinages!
Andrew Ogus warns us: “The delightful graphic novel Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, includes Jabberwocky and Bandersnatch guards around the giants’ stronghold. Bloomsbury, New York, $19.99.”
One review (at Booktrust) gives this synopsis: “The book relocates the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk to a Wild West populated by Native Americans, giants, ogres and a devilish creature called the Jabberwock, and turns it into a breathless crime caper full of action and suspense in the process.”