Monday, December 14, 2009

A Parable for "Glorious" Essay-Writers Everywhere

Whenever I'm grading papers at the end of the semester, there always comes a point when I am reminded of that peculiar conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty (from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass).

After noting that there are 364 days of the year that one can receive un-birthday presents, Humpty Dumpty says to 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.'

`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.'

In deference to Humpty, I won't embark upon a long analysis here... except to note (for the benefit of essay writers everywhere) that, as Humpty points out, when "you make a word do a lot of work for you like that, you've got to pay it extra."


Dr. Trott said...

There should be a "like" link on blogs.

steventhomas said...

that's one of my favorite passages in all of literature. glory. hee hee hee.

anotherpanacea said...

Sometimes I read your blog posts and want to print them out and distribute them to my students.....

This was one of those times.