It has come up in a few different contexts on this blog that I am a fan of “Alice in Wonderland.” I also really enjoy “The Jabberwocky.” It’s a nonsensical poem, and yet the nonsense words are suggestive by their sounds of different meanings. “Frabjous” might be similar to fabulous or joyous. I’m sure Carroll had some other inspirational words in mind, but even without knowing them exactly, you get the feeling that “frabjous” is something good. The poem might be nonsense, but it’s witty nonsense.
A few of the nonsense words in the poem are explained by Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass.”
- Brillig: four o’clock in the afternoon (the time when you begin broiling things for dinner).
- Slithy: a portmanteau of “lithe” and “slimy”
- Tove: a creature the resembles a hybrid of a badger, a lizard and a corkscrew. It lives under sundials and subsists on cheese.
- Gyre: to go round and round like a gyroscope.
- Gimble: to make holes like a gimblet.
- Wabe: the grass-plot round a sun-dial.
- Mimsy: a portmanteau of “miserable” and “flimsy.”
- Borogove: a type of bird that resembles a mop.
- Mome: to be lost from home.
- Rath: a type of green pig.
- Outgrabe: a noise that’s between a bellow and a whistle, with a kind of sneeze in the middle
The poem tells of the slaying of a dangerous creature (the jabberwocky,) and it has the feeling of a fairy tale or knight story with the slaying of a dragon.
Below, I read the poem for my YouTube channel.