Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Alice Meets Humpty Dumpty: A study in lingustics
"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."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper some of them - particularly verbs: they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs - however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"