When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less

Everybody's a critic

Everybody's a critic, but some of us are experts

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful. ‘I’d rather see that done on paper,’ he said.

Alice couldn’t help smiling as she took out her memorandum-book, and worked the sum for him:

Humpty Dumpty took the book, and looked at it carefully. ‘That seems to be done right –‘ he began.

‘You’re holding it upside down!’ Alice interrupted.

‘To be sure I was!’ Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. ‘I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right – though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now – and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents –‘

‘Certainly,’ said Alice.

‘And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

by Lewis Carroll (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898)
from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
Chapter VI: Humpty Dumpty
image – Editor B

Own it, Baby

Own it, and move on over while others own it, too.

One ownership does not cancel out the other. Alice subtracted one from 365, demonstrating that there are indeed 364 un-birthdays in a year – and of course Humpty Dumpty had to check her work. Humpty Dumpty educated Alice as to what he means by “glory,” and of course Alice has to question him.

There is nothing like a young reader with a solid appreciation for vocabulary, or an adult with a sense of direction.

Alice was first turned into a script within a few years of being published. No wonder! It’s oh, so tempting to add a personal stamp to the dialogue. Just try reading this excerpt out loud without doing voices for Humpty and Alice – doesn’t feel right, does it? Alice has also been the inspiration for countless parodies. One of the early versions is a 1907 retelling by John Kendrick Bangs, the now-and-maybe-always-obscure social commentary named Alice in Blunderland: an iridescent dream.

Just for Fun – More Humpty Dumpty on YouTube

Listen to Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys sing their perky country song – Humpty Dumpty Heart. (1948)

If you prefer Jazz, Chick Corea did a concept album named The Mad Hatter. This track is named Humpty Dumpty. (1978)

I also found an odd little sendup of the Humpty Dumpty story imagined as a short poem, told by Edgar Allan Poe in puppet form.

Once upon a wall of stone
Sat Humpty Dumpy all alone
Shrouded in a web of gloom
His fate as near as tomorrow’s tomb

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One Response to “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”

  1. Abimbola Akanwo Says:

    🙂 Love the excerpt…thank you

    Great links in the post…cheers