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English humour examples and resources

English Humour

Who doesn't love a good joke? We do – especially if they are language related –so this autumn we will be sharing some fun, humorous language resources with you… all in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland!

Have a look below to see our English Humour resources – and don't forget to vote for your favourite Alice word.

What's your favourite Alice word?

Lewis Carroll’s Alice is known for its absurd storyline and nonsense words. Did you know that some words that we use today were originally coined by Carroll? Some of Carroll’s most brilliantly devised words are first used in his nonsense poem 'Jabberwocky'. The poem is full of strange words that are blended together and as Humpty Dumpty explains, these type of words are called portmanteaus.

We’ve listed some of Carroll’s most famous portmanteau words below – you can find out what they mean in this blog post. So which one is your favourite?

Vote for your favourite Alice word for a chance of winning an Alice book collection! The collection includes:

  • The Complete Alice by Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Macmillan English Explorers Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (B1+ level)
  • The Nursery Alice by Macmillan Children’s Books
  • An Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland notebook
  • The Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll by Palgrave Macmillan

We’ve got a winner!

After 1600 votes, the word frabjous has been chosen as the public’s favourite Alice portmanteau word!

Frabjous (a combination of the words fair, fabulous and joyous) received 23.3% of all votes, with mimsy (a blend of the words flimsy and miserable) second with 21.8%.

Why did frabjous win? Well, here are some of the reasons people voted for this word:

“It begins with ‘frab’ and ends with ‘jous’. What could be better?”
“[It's a] combination of positive words. And being positive is all about it nowadays.”
“It sounds awesome.”
“Because it makes me laugh.”
“I love the sound and the combination of letters that are not often together in words (such as F-B and J)”.

We picked one random winner from all entries and Tassia from Brazil is the lucky winner! The Alice book collection has been sent to you and we hope you’ll enjoy your prize.

Terms & conditions can be found here.

English Humour resources

So Lewis Carroll is famous for making up words and using humorous language. If you’re getting curiouser and curiouser to know more about this topic, try out these classroom resources. They include an infographic about jokes and puns, some very tricky puzzles, and a tongue twister… if you dare!

Webinar: Absurd Alice and Humour in the English Language

You can now watch a recording of Michael Rundell’s webinar on English Humour. Michael covers some of the humorous aspects of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and talks about what defines “English” humour.

Download the presentation
Watch video of webinar
English Humour infographic

Infographic: what's in a joke?

What's the difference between a riddle, a pun and a one-liner? Want to know what a witty joke is, or an off-colour one? This infographic has the answer.

Download the infographic
English Humour infographic

Puzzle: can you find the secret sentence?

This humour-themed puzzle page is inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It includes a word search and three word ladders. Can you solve them?

Download the puzzle
Download the answers to the puzzle
English Humour puzzle

Blog posts about English Humour

Over on Macmillan Dictionary Blog, blogger and Alice-enthusiast Stan Carey will fill us in about the wonderful language used in Alice. We will also welcome guest authors to write about their interest in this topic. Follow our blog to stay up-to-date.

Macmillan Dictionary Blog

Language, logic, and Lewis Carroll

“One of the joys of reading Lewis Carroll lies in his treatment of logic – the wonderful mixture of care and irreverence with which he manipulates the everyday rules and conventions through which we make sense.“

View the blog post

Macmillan Dictionary Blog

The dodo is dead, long live the dodo

“[T]he phrase dead as a dodo […] resonates most strongly nowadays, and serves also as a reminder of a unique creature now lost.”

View the blog post

Macmillan Dictionary Blog

Why do we ‘grin like a Cheshire cat’?

“The phrase grin like a Cheshire cat has become synonymous with Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But while Carroll was no slouch when it came to inventive language, the expression predates his book and was in general use at the time.”

View the blog post

Tongue Twister video

Put your pronunciation to the test and do the Cheshire Cat’s Tongue Twister Challenge! Read by Adrian Underhill, this fun activity will certainly get the conversation going.

For more information and the transcript, visit the Macmillan English website

150 years of Alice

The Macmillan Alice

This year, Macmillan is celebrating 150 years of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s popular children’s story was first published by Macmillan and it has never been out of print. As part of the celebrations, Macmillan has published a range of new Alice editions, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass for English language learners (at B1+ level).
Anniversary hardback The Complete Alice includes both Alice stories with original illustrations and The Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll is the perfect companion if you want to learn more about the man behind Alice, his wit, sense of absurdity and imagination. For more information about the Macmillan Alice, visit www.aliceinwonderland150.com


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