Daily Archives: January 28, 2011


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimbel in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe. And in the fulvious amertrube lay the amphigouri…

No, wait, that’s not it. If I wanted to completely desecrate Lewis Carroll’s work and get it all wrong to boot, I’d ask Tim Burton. But something’s afoot… So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage leaf, to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! no soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top; and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots. And the amphigouri sang “Den itan nissi.”

Oh, no, no, it was Nana Mouskouri who sang “Den itan nissi,” and the rest was made up by Samuel Foote for pronunciation by some panjandrum in an amphitheatre. But where is the amphigouri?

Well, I suppose it depends on what kind of amphigouri you want. Certainly an amphigouri of jabberwocky or some similar phantasmagoria could be rather gory (but then we might prefer to call it an amphigory), but others might be more, um, figurative. Or you could proceed post-haste to postmodernism (or at least Saturday evening post-modernism): visit www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ for a postmodernist amphigouri (and every time you visit or even refresh the page, you will get something new).

So what, then, is an amphigouri? Well, to obnubilate in the clearest manner possible, it is a dicurtical strication of thematic varietation, surpondial but fundamentally based on an either paraciliastic basilon nor why it does when divagate. The morphological ecdysiation is in essence not merely evanescent but always already precluded by diasynchronic fuscus; we may identify amphi from a stereotopical conspectus, but beyond that we can but gather that the gouri. In semantic terms, it is paradipsically exemplified as follows:

There once was a clear amphigory
Who said, “That’s a whole nother story.
Parodic fantasia
Is prolix aphasia:
No guts, and quite often no rhyme, either.”

If that’s clear as mud, well. Very well, in fact, even if a muddy well. What I’m saying is that an amphigouri is a piece of nonsense writing, often but not necessarily in verse, typically aiming to parody. Also, an amphigory is a piece of nonsense writing, often but not necessarily in verse, typically aiming to parody. Which is to say that amphigory is another spelling of amphigouri, and in fact is probably the better-known spelling for English speakers, especially those who have ever seen Edward Gorey’s book Amphigorey. Amphigory is an English spelling of amphigouri, which we have also taken straight from the French. (I just happen to find the French spelling more exotic-looking.) And the French got it where? Well, the amphi is clear enough: “both sides” or “about”. But what’s it doing there? Is the gouri from agora or the same root as the ending of allegory and category, or is it from gyros “circle”? One way or the other, it’s made of bits borrowed from Greek, but apparently put together without a mind for coherence.

The term can also be applied to speech or writing that is not intentionally incoherent. And of course it can be applied to a work of literature that one may assume is meant to be obscurantist but is not parody per se. Which brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs…