dance7
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves   
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,   
And the mome raths outgrabe.characters
                      --Jabberwocky

 

dance1

So, although my father often wanders around the house reciting bits of the Jabberwocky, and although I’m mildly obsessed with other works of Lewis Carroll, this opening gambit pretty much shut my brain down, and I never really took to the Jabberwocky as anything more than the fantastic sound it makes when bellowed aloud. Then I came across this word in The Daily Figaro: Portmanteau.
“Originally, a portmanteau carried a nobleman’s luggage.  Later the word referred to a bag slung onto a horse, which evolved into a suitcase that opens like a book.  Then Lewis Carroll analogized it.  In Through the Looking-Glass, Humpty Dumpty explains that slithy combines lithe and slimy, mimsy hybridizes miserable and flimsy, and so on.  ‘You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.””
 
Carroll explained it a bit more in his own introduction to The Hunting of the Snark:
“Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious". Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first ... if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious".”

 

dance2


 
There are plenty of portmanteaus in everyday speech, like smog: a mix of smoke and fog. Or motel: motor and hotel. Or brunch: breakfast and lunch.  Everyone remembers “Brangelina?”  
A more interesting one is “flabbergast,” the history of which I found on http://www.word-detective.com/
 
“Dating to the 18th century and most likely a combination of "flabby" or "flap" and "aghast," the logic underlying "flabbergast," meaning "extremely frightened or surprised," is a bit obscure. My guess is that "flabbergast" was originally intended to conjure up visions of someone so terrified or astonished that they trembled like a bowl of Jell-O. "Flabby," incidentally, is closely related to the old word "flappy" -- to say someone is flabby is to say that they "flap" when they move, which is enough to send anyone to the gym.”

 
Vesna and I have been on a vocabulary binge, lately, for a project I won’t go into here, and one of the products of it is the following portmanteau:
Artnapping: Art + nap (sleep) + nap (nab/ kidnap). The above black ink drawing was the first image to flesh out the ideas of the story. Then I decided to finally try my hand at maquettes, those moveable models that Clive Hicks-Jenkins uses in his studios that I love so much. Those are the figures you see dancing around this space.



....dance3

atnapbw


I received this fascinating word from Anu Garg’s word service: Anosognosia: noun: Unawareness of one's disease, disability, or a defect.

In an interview with Errol Morris, V. S. Ramachandran (co-author of Phantoms of the Brain) expands on this fascinating state of unawareness:

I saw a lady, not long ago, in India, and she had complete paralysis on her left side, a very intelligent woman, but had both anosognosia and somatoparaphrenia — Denial that a body part, in this instance, an arm, belongs to her.  It’s part of the same spectrum of disorders.  ...So I asked her, “Can you move your right arm?” and the usual list of questions, and she said “Yes, of course.”  I said, “Can you move your left arm?”  She said, “Yes.”  “Can you touch my nose?”  “Yes, I can touch your nose, sir.”  “Can you see it?” “Yes, it’s almost there.”  The usual thing, O.K.?  So far, nothing new.  Her left arm is lying limp in her lap; it’s not moving at all; it’s on her lap, on her left side, O.K.?   I left the room, waited for a few minutes, then I went back to the room and said, “Can you use your right arm?”  She said, “Yes.”  Then I grabbed her left arm and raised it towards her nose and I said, “Whose arm is this?”  She said, “That’s my mother’s arm.”  Again, typical, right?  And I said, “Well, if that’s your mother’s arm, where’s your mother?”  And she looks around, completely perplexed, and she said, “Well, she’s hiding under the table.”  So this sort of confabulatory thing is very common, but it’s just a very striking manifestation of it.  No normal person would dream of making up a story like that.  But here is the best part.  I said, “Please touch your nose with your left hand.”  She immediately takes her right hand, goes and reaches for the left hand, raising it, passively raising it, right?  Using it as a tool to touch my nose or touch her nose.  What does this imply?  She claims her left arm is not paralyzed, right?  Why does she spontaneously reach for it and grab her left arm with her right hand and take her left hand to her nose?  That means she knows it is paralyzed at some level.  Is that clear? [53]
ERROL MORRIS: Yes.  Presumably, if she didn’t know it was paralyzed, she wouldn’t try to lift it with her right hand.
V.S. RAMACHANDRAN: And it gets even better, she’s just now told me that it’s not her left arm, it is her mother’s arm, so why is she pulling up her mother’s arm and pointing it at my nose?  What we call belief is not a monolithic thing; it has many layers.

dance4

That last sentence is key. Not only are belief systems complex, but they regularly contradict themselves. Why? We are so complex. If an individual cannot go without contradicting himself, how can an entire community?

Errol Morris goes on to explain:
“Ramachandran has used the notion of layered belief — the idea that some part of the brain can believe something and some other part of the brain can believe the opposite (or deny that belief) — to help explain anosognosia. In a 1996 paper [54], he speculated that the left and right hemispheres react differently when they are confronted with unexpected information. The left brain seeks to maintain continuity of belief, using denial, rationalization, confabulation and other tricks to keep one’s mental model of the world intact; the right brain, the “anomaly detector” or “devil’s advocate,” picks up on inconsistencies and challenges the left brain’s model in turn. When the right brain’s ability to detect anomalies and challenge the left is somehow damaged or lost (e.g., from a stroke), anosognosia results.
In Ramachandran’s account, then, we are treated to the spectacle of different parts of the brain — perhaps even different selves — arguing with one another.”

 

So, your brain, arguing with itself: anosognosia. Note the right brain (picking up on anomalies) vs the left brain (trying to streamline, which can cause denial), and that these conflicts are going on underneath the surface of your “I” all the time, causing you to do things that are against what you believe to be your “will” or “desire”. This is something a lot of dream theories pick up on: in your dreams, your brain will break those “sides” down into images: people from your history, people who are famous, people you always pass an wonder about but have never met…in general, people as caricature: their “main” aspect, the main thing you associate them with—your brain uses them to symbolize some aspect of your inner conflict, so that while you’re dreaming, you can see, on some level, the conflict, and resolve it, so that in your waking life, you can begin behaving as a unified force, at least on that one issue.

 

the_artnap

High up in this image, you will see other versions of the leading lady, appearing and disappearing behind pillars. In this dream, something important, something the dreamer wants to share, is being hidden, by the dreamer, who also wants to keep it. We are complex people, made up of complex, sometimes conflicting desires. In the tale, the dreamer’s mind sends in a detective (a new character)…He will seek out the “trouble-maker,” and this is why the gun is not the appropriate weapon (is it ever?); he wants to “lure” her to “his” side. And he does! What once was a conflict is now just a dance…