Humpty Dumpty

Humpty appears in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass (1872), where he discusses semantics and pragmatics with Alice.[20]

    «I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ » Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. «Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ »
    «But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,» Alice objected.
    «When I use a word,» Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, «it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.»
    «The question is,» said Alice, «whether you can make words mean so many different things.»
    «The question is,» said Humpty Dumpty, «which is to be master      that’s all.»
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. «They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!»[21]

This passage was used in Britain by Lord Atkin in his dissenting judgement in the seminal case Liversidge v. Anderson (1942), where he protested about the distortion of a statute by the majority of the House of Lords.[22] It also became a popular citation in United States legal opinions, appearing in 250 judicial decisions in the Westlaw database as of April 19, 2008, including two Supreme Court cases (TVA v. Hill andZschernig v. Miller).[23]

 

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