Go ask Alice

The third most quoted collection of written works, behind the Bible and Shakespeare’s oeuvre, turns 150 this year. Although all of these contenders feature stories that stretch the boundary of credulity (Walking on water? Fairies doing matchmaking?) , Alice in Wonderland (and her further adventures on the wrong side of the looking glass) surely wins the prize for blatantly sheer nonsense. But, of course, in a good way. Here are some of the ways in which Lewis Carroll’s influence has permeated our culture over the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

1. Carroll invented the ‘portmanteau’: combining two or more words and their meanings into a new word. Without him, we would not be bothered by smog, be able to stay in a motel, visit Tanzania, wear a skort to brunch, or eat turducken. Portmanteaus are also crucial to the very fabric of popular culture, as Bennifer, Brangelina, and TomKat can attest.

2. The effect that Alice and her friends have had on the English language ranges far beyond our ability to name celebrity couples. I would venture to guess that many of the internet quotes and aphorisms attributed to the Dali Lama or George Takei (which actually might be the same person) are straight from the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Ever put all the king’s horses and all the king’s men on an impossible job or realize that if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you? I rest my case.

3. As you may know, Through the Looking Glass is structured as a chess game. This led to creation of ‘Alice’ chess in 1953, which then morphed (literally) into Quantum Chess, where a chess piece is not a static thing but a ‘superposition’ of fluid properties that cause it to act in any chess role depending on circumstance. This makes Lewis Carroll an honorary physicist and by extension an honorary rocket scientist. Top that, Mr. Shakespeare.

4. Somebody has claimed every possible domain name related to Alice in Wonderland including Jabberwocky. The reason the website owner in question chose jabberwocky.com was because in the initial days of URL land grab, it was the only thing available that had any remote affiliation to his life (that being his favourite poem). As a result, he ended up with a click bait generator rivaling ‘5 Things You Need to Know About Kim Kardasian’s 10 Favourite Vegetables’, because of the enduring fascination with all things Alice and the fact that no one can remember exactly how the poem goes when the occasion arises.

5. Finally, in perhaps the most sentient sentiment, Mr. Carroll penned the immortal words: “You used to be much more muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.” And indeed, how much muchness would we all be missing if we had never met the Mad Hatter, suffered the wrath of the Red Queen or believed in talking rabbits.

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