Sunday, April 23, 2006



All My Road Before Me. The Diary of C.S. Lewis, 1922-1927 (San Diego: Harcourt, 1991), p. 453 (February 17, 1927):
To Corpus in the evening to read the Theaetetus with Hardie and his three pupils Erskine, Green and Shewring. All very good fellows. Discovered in Liddell and Scott the glorious word "porwizzle".
The online Liddell and Scott at Perseus is unavailable at this time of the day (as it usually is). Google returns no hits for porwizzle. It doesn't look like a Greek word, and I checked all headwords starting with por- in the little Liddell without finding anything. The Oxford English Dictionary is temporarily accepting free searches, but turns up nothing. I don't own a copy of Plato's Theaetetus in the original Greek, and the online copy at Perseus is also unavailable at the moment.

One would expect to find an odd-sounding word like porwizzle not in Liddell but in the works of Liddell family friend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland was written for Liddell's daughter Alice.

Laura Gibbs writes:
Do you think it could be a variant of porwiggle, or tadpole, since there is a reference to a tadpole (Greek gurinos) in the dialogue at 161d - the variants for this word listed in the OED [s.v. polliwog] are NUMEROUS:
Forms: α. 5 polwygle, 7 porwig(g)le, 9 porriwiggle, purwiggy, pollywiggle, pollywoggle. β. 6 polwigge, 7 polewigge, po(o)lwig, 9 polliwig, polly-wig, polliwog, pollywog. [ME. polwygle, f. POLL n.1 + WIGGLE v. The forms polwig, etc., are either shortened from polwygle, or formed with the dial. wig vb. to wag.]
It's not in the LSJ at Perseus but there are other editions of LSJ no doubt. Just a thought.
I think Dr. Gibbs has solved the mystery. My copy of Liddell and Scott (New York, 1872) defines γυρῖνος as "tadpole, porwigle." Porwizzle is probably a misprint in Lewis' diary.

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