Hoaxes & Pranks
Topsy-Turveydom's Tongue
The Charms of Doubletalk

By W.G.M.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.)
Date: July 15, 1944
Page Number: 11
Hoaxes & Pranks
The Charms of Doubletalk
Doubletalk, a skilful blending of sense and nonsense, guaranteed to make you unpopular at parties, is having a tremendous vogue in America, and has now spread to this country; even the Sydney University has established an Oxometrical Society which recently went so far as to award a Doctorate of Science in Oxometry to a hoax poet, Ern Malley.
     It is sometimes supposed that doubletalk is an American invention, designed by men of light and leading in the great Republic to promote gaiety among the nations at a time when things in general are anything but gay. Actually, of course, double talk isn't an American idea at all. And it certainly isn't new. It derives from that very ancient art- form, pure nonsense, consisting of human sounds entirely devoid of any meaning. Syllables like "tooral-looral" fill a whole department of nonsense but many of them are with some accepted general meaning. The jovial miller, in saying "Hi jumpme jerrime jee" will be generally recognised as expressing self-congratulation at independence; "rum ti tum" suggests the imitation of a musical instrument.
     One would like to believe that these vocables were the oldest kind of literary nonsense; and that the village lads of pre-history used choruses of the fol dol deriddle type before other, more conscientiously intellctual nonsense forms evolved, such as the introduction, by contrast, of a word or so relevant to the context of a song into the irrelevant matter of the chorus. The "jump" in the miller's remark above is relevant to the degree of his excitement. Thus another kind of nonsense, that less pure form requiring a modicum of sense, seeped in. But there is yet a third kind, less sopisticated than the second, and pretty old; we have a pre-renaissance example in
Yet I tell you mickle more;
The cat lieth in the cradle;
I pray you keep true heart in store,
A penny for a ladle.
     In which the fun depends on a collection of logical statements with no apparent connection to each other. Dickens's Flora Finching is made to be funny on exactly similar lines in "Little Dorrit," but Dickens seems to have moved yet further away from pure nonsense by introducing an element of satire on the conversation of a known person, one of his contemporaries.
Rabelais, Lear, Carroll.
Andre Maurois has described the nonsense urge as particularly British, but to this, remembering Rabelais, one can give only a qualified assent. The nonsense of Rabelais was mainly a camouflage to save his bacon from the fire while he attacked powerful institutions, but no one can maintain that he did not enjoy exercising his genius for the flamboyant impossibility. Today, the ever-delightful J. B. Morton ("Beachcomber") may revel in the nonsense aspect of his didactic film, but satire is apt to put a brake on his style.
     Edward Lear was a more single-hearted fantast, describing himself as an old Derry Down Derry, who loved to make little folks merry. It may be doubted whether he was so much conscious of the principle of non sequitur, as yielding to a spontaneous overflow of high spirits; at an events, in the best of his work there is at least the effect of such a spontaneity, that is scarcely discoverable in the "planned" analytic jollity of Lewis Carroll. It was as long ago as 1871 that Carroll burst on a startled world with "Through the Looking Glass" and had all the pundits and pontiffs pondering on the hidden meaning of the lines.
'Twas brllig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gamble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths ontgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjab bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatct.
     Carroll's play with words and sense was deliberately ingenious even "mimsy" is not permitted without an intellectual apology which detracts from the spirit of pure nonsense—the author explains that it is a "portmenteau" word combining miserable and flimsy. And when "Beachcomber's" peregrine skooms out of a gazzlebush the words are as satiric of technical terms as those of D. B. Wyndham Lewis in his description of a new car, where the grorbles feed the sliding Paff gongdudger. They are a skit, in nonsense words, of the new sense-bombast which science has imposed on us; whereas pure nonsense is simply itself.
Tips for Beginners.
Doublets, the spoken fosterchild of nonsense writing, produces in the victim upon whom it is worked a strong suspicion that he is either hard of hearing or slowly going mad. The ability to administer it effectively requires, above all things, a talent for preserving a poker face. The doubletalker who smiles is in serious danger of betraying himself. He must also remember to employ enough legitimately applicable words to confuse his listener into the belief that he is missing something.
     A well-known American master of the art, Sid Gary, has been mouthing doubletalk since his school days. On one occasion when his teacher asked him to explain the square of the hypotenuse of the right triangle, Gary disguised his ignorance by stating that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the napid of the miffdown of the other two sides. Rather than admit her confusion the teacher said, "Correct." From such a utilitarian start, Gary has progressed to an expertness that is practically infallible. When a soap box Socialist in New York had finished his harangue one day, Gary asked if he would reply to a question. "Go right ahead," said the speaker. "Well," said Gary, "it's this way. If I want to vote on the Socialist ticket and split my ticket on the kamist party from the farmoil with the Democratic Party, can I vote in Cleveland on the stanivit?" The Socialist brooded for a moment and then looked brightly at Gary and said, "Exactly."
     Any list of famous practitioners of "the double" would certainly include the name of Jerry Colonna, the irrepressible Bob Hope's equally irrepressible right-hand man, whose voice is frequently heard here in radio programmes from America. A few years ago he was introduced as Professor Gerardo, a distinguished visiting literary critic, to a group of dreadfully serious cognoscenti who had gathered to discuss "Finnegan's Wake" James Joyce's celebrated excursion into the esoteric. "Here," said Colonna, "we have unquestionably, a trax-waxed solsimate railbranks, though its saxtergreleger is flederis glutgobbles in the dreel sprail." His audience looked at one another, nodded approvingly and turned back to Colonna for further words of wisdom.
Feltedinous Flam, Indubitably.
     Uninitiates who are silly enough to wish to learn doubletalk are advised that they do so at their own risk. But once the decision has been made, the possibilities are unlimited. The best way to start is by giving a waitress an order for food. Give me a steak with plamits on the side and korblit sauce fanison. Here, for example, are some other unprocurable dishes that you might slip into an otherwise sane order: Kerbits and milk; sauted bramishawns; steefils on toast; snerbs with krivit mushrooms; kerl salad with grinks dressing; rimps without potatoes; hermilberries and cream, vimilforty cheese kribbles, preferably warm.
     The point to remember in the of any form of doubletalk is that it is imperative at the outset that you get your listener to agree withyou. Thus, having selected a victim, you ask, in a soft, almost excessively polite voice, "Don't you think the advocates of a 'Yes' vote in the coming referendum are using too much umaturf corflammery, not to say eelkail with napid mutes on the unctatious ristan?" If you'e suficiently fluent your victim will reply, "I think so." That is your cue to ask "For example?" The victim then thinks a moment and perhap says "Dr Evatt." This is your chance to fix him with a cold, uncomprehending stare and demand, in pitying accents, "Have you been drinking, or are you merely mad? What has Dr Evatt got to do with the subject we were discussing, the question whether British mothers eat their young?" By this time the victim, cowed, will stammer out apologies for his obtuseness; and leaving him convinced that he has been thoroughly in the wrong you will stride haughtily from the room, in search of other prey.
     That is how it ought to work, anyhow. But there are pitfalls in the path of the beginner, and many a slip twixt the brain and the lip. In the early stages of acquiring the art you would be well advised to practice doubletalk pretty frequently at your wife. If she divorces you in consequence you can always say with perfect truth that it's just another of those sad cases summed up in the phrase, "Not understood."
Ern Malley Hoax
Charles Dickens
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André Maurois
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François Rabelais (French: c. 1494 – 9 April 1553) was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs.

Rabelais is considered one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing.
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Edward Lear
Lewis Carroll
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Through the Looking Glass
Wyndham Lewis
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Sid Gary
This is an old vaudeville comedian named Sid Gary telling a story about his time as George Burns' partner:
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Herbert V. Evatt
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Finnegans Wake is a work of literature by Irish author James Joyce, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language.

The entire book is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologistic multilingual puns and portmanteau words, which many critics believe attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams. Owing to the work's expansive linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations, and its abandonment of the conventions of plot and character construction, Finnegans Wake remains largely unread by the general public.
Jerry Colonna