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Confusion about Jabberwocky

Topics/tags: Miscellaneous, short, rabbit holes

As I mentioned in an earlier musing, I’ve been using parts of Through the Looking-Glass as examples in CSC 151, mostly the parts near the poem Jabberwocky.

Today I discovered an interesting thing. I was looking through one online PDF which appears to have been published in 1872 in London by Macmillan and Co. As far as I can tell, that’s the first edition [1]. I was surprised to discover that the first two lines read

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wade;

Why was I surprised? Because I’ve always heard it as in the wabe. However, given the borogroves issue [2], I wasn’t certain.

So I went looking.

The Library of Congress has a scan of a copy published in 1909 in New York by Dodge Publishing Company. Conveniently, you can see the individual page. This edition reads

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

Hmmm. This one has wabe. But it changes the semicolon to a colon. Puzzling.

An epub version that suggests some effort was involved has wabe and the semicolon. The Project Gutenberg HTML has wabe and the semicolon. However, Gutenberg does not have the semicolon in the backwards text.

What about the backwards text in the others? The LoC copy has a colon in the backwards text. And the one published by Macmillan in 1872? It has wabe;, which is wabe backwards, with a semicolon.

The closing stanza in that version reads

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

That’s enough evidence for me. I’m guessing that the first wade was a typo, perhaps spurred by the mirror-image text from earlier. I’m sticking with wabe.

Postscript: Somewhere along the line, I discovered that there’s a functional programming language called Alice. I knew about the graphical object-oriented language called Alice and its variants, like Storytelling Alice. But I hadn’t known about the functional language.

Postscript: It seems somehow appropriate that an issue pertaining to a Lewis Carroll book sent me down an Internet rabbit hole.

[1] A seemingly authoritative page about the book says

Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there” was published in December 1871 (but was dated 1872).

[2] Although many people say borogroves [3], it is supposed to be borogoves.

[3] I recall hearing a choral arrangement that used borogroves and just spent way too much time looking for it. However, both the René Clausen and Sam Pottle versions seem to use borogoves [4]. However, the Pottle version changes claws that catch to teeth that catch. Why?

[4] I looked at and listened to a few others, too. I think I’ve now heard enough versions of Jabberwocky to last me for awhile.

Version 1.0 of 2019-01-14.