Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fit Two, Page 12, Panel 3 … the vocabulary of Bradshaw is nervous and terse but limited

In a world without words, only the small-minded will be tongue-tied. Although our gallant crew aboard the HMS Snark is none of the above, they are maintaining strict radio silence as they slip by the pictorially-fortified beaches of the deadly Festung Schnark. The tension is palpable, our brave lads (and lass) are straining every nerve as they man (and miss) their weapons.

And what weapons are these? Steam-powered concussion-primed pencils? Petrol-driven semi-automatic violins? Pshaw to such antiquated music-hall-cross-talk-claptrap! Our snarqistadores are armed with only an indifferent somnolence, punctuated by an insouciant nasal susurration … they are snoring, they are snorting, they are sniffing and sneezing, they are speaking that most ancient, somatic and asemic dialect of the body physical, proof positive against all visual illusions and cognitive man-traps of the so-called higher intellect.

Hold on, what’s all this, you say? Lost in the disorienting farrago of my mixed metaphors and strained allusions? Missing the connection, the old brain-box gone off-track, signals crossed somewhere? Don’t panic! I shall refer you to the classic solace of the dislocated and confused Victorian bourgeois Snark hunter — a Bradshaw’s Guide!

Look here, sirrah, here it is writ out, plain as can be! All the lost luggage and missed connections of long-dead phonemes, waiting on long-gone railway platforms for a linguistic rendez-vous with a common usage that never arrived … schnarren, schnarchen, snarren, snerka … and yes, dare we say it — SNARK!

I think I’d better go and have a nice lie-down now. To sleep, perchance to snore — aye, there’s the snark.


NB. A tip of the ink-stained tuque to goofy, the proprietor of the wonderful and highly recommended Bradshaw of the Future, whose etymological assistance in our Snark hunt has been invaluable and fascinating. BOTF’s provenance stems from that " desperate wrong-doer " in Lewis Carroll’s " A Tangled Tale ". Any resemblance to railroad Bradshaws real or fictional , either living or dead, is purely coincidental on my part … dismiss it all as a false cognate destined to plague as-yet-unborn googlistas surfing the digital Bradshaw of the future.


  1. Nervously, tersely, goofy emerges from his treacle well to see what all this snoring and sneezing is about. There's a lot of phonesthemes in the air! He hopes one of them isn't a Boo-

  2. Very good! Obviously, the mid-winter allergy season is in its full-blown phonesthemic grandeur.

    If I was in a treacle well, I would never leave, mmmmmmmmmm, treacle!


  3. Fernando Soto, in The Consumption of the Snark and the Decline of Nonsense: A Medico-Linguistic Reading of Carroll’s ‘Fitful Agony’ (in The Carrollian 8) mentions the word "snarker" - a cinder, as in "The cake's burnt to a snarker" (from The English Dialect Dictionary). He also notes that the Dictionary of Early English traces "snark" to "snirt", which means to snicker, but it's not clear what the connection is between the words.

    Any connection of "snark" to bathing or twisting is wishful thinking imo.