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Snicker-snack

John Rentoul

250px Jabberwocky 200x300 Snicker snackFirst I come to praise sub-editors, and Adrian Read in particular. Usually writers like to complain about how subs take out their jokes and put in mistakes. One of the joys of writing for The Independent on Sunday is that its sub-editors make my writing better.

Thanks to Adrian I was saved from misquoting Lewis Carroll in my column today. As published, I said Maria Miller was as mimsy as a borogove. I thought the line in ”Jabberwocky” was “All mimsy were the borogroves”. I even looked it up to check and didn’t notice. Luckily Adrian checked too, and did. It is “borogoves”.

So my assumption that the poem referred to swamps, like mangroves only nicer, requires a little more imagination. My former colleague Matt Hoffman tells me that Carroll said a borogove was a wingless parrot, but when I use nonsense words, they mean whatever I want them to mean. Carroll apparently said that “mimsy” meant “flimsy and miserable”. Not to me it doesn’t. I meant it to mean prim and unforthcoming.

Adrian also rewrote another of my sentences so that it shone. Having said that Miller ought to have known that her perfunctory and insincere apology would make matters worse, the article now says:

The surest way to madden the bull of public opinion is to prick it with the knives of disdain and right-to-govern.

I am embarrassed to admit that what I wrote was: “The surest way to drive the bull of public opinion mad is to stick the knives of disdain and right-to-govern in its shoulders.”

So much for style. I shall come to the substance of my partial defence of Miller in the next post.

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  • Ciaran Goggins

    The surest way to annoy the public is to insist that Blair has a scintilla of honour. Looking at his dodgy deals in Albania, Mongolia and South Korea would give the lie to this.

  • Pacificweather

    Will the beamish boy Ed strike?

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

    Or will the Came Ron slay the Jabberwocky Miller. It must be getting close to the frabjous day.

  • greggf

    “The surest way to drive the bull of public opinion mad is to stick the knives of disdain and right-to-govern in its shoulders.”

    Well now, that could apply to the folks north of the border.
    All those English politicos ganging up to not let the Scots use our £ sterling is bound to play into the hands of those who like to blame the English for all the ills that befall Scotland….

  • ZacMurdoch

    Borogoves, eh – what does that say about Michael? Wingless parrot suits him quite well, he certainly does a lot of pecking and sounding off. He’s quite mimsy as well – the prim part, anyway.
    He made a massively partisan speech at the national Chamber of Commerce conference last week in which he pretty much claimed that good education started in 2010, and that improvements in the last few years were all down to the Tories, while Labour got everything wrong. It will, in fact, be about 2017 before we see the fruits of Gove’s labours – I’m glad I’m not at school now.


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