quite a while since I last wrote about Bandersnatch.
benefit of newcomer readers: Bandersnatch is the Bikwil “language of the
mind” that we concocted as an echo of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky
poem. Previous pieces on Bandersnatch and related topics have appeared
in this column in
Issue 3 (1997 September),
Issue 11 (1999 January),
Issue 16 (1999 November) and
Issue 23 (2001 January).]
this month marks the first anniversary of the death of funny-man Stanley
regarding his relevance to Bandersnatch, believe me, if ever anyone
deserved to be mentioned in a Bandersnatch context it would have to be
the breathtaking Mr. Stanley Unwin — or as he preferred to be known,
Professor Unwin (not to be confused with Sir Stanley Unwin, the early
20th century publisher).
not ring a bell? Maybe his words will, or at least his style of words.
Here is the beginning of his version of Goldilocks:
apollytito and Goldiloppers set out in the deep dark of the forry. She
was carry a basket with buttere-flabe and cheesy flavour.
perhaps this other opening paragraph, from his
Pidey Pipeload of Hamling will stir
in a long far awow, in the Germanic land, there was a great city with
Grubbelsberg or something like that, with an Obermeister-Bergelmasty who
was in charge. Now there they had a surfeit or rat-suffery, where all
they used to creep and out and gnaw sniff and gribble into the early
mord (and the late evage) there, biting the bits of the table, also the
tea-clothers; and when people were asleep in their beds, so these rats
would gnaw into the sheebs and also the whiskers of those who was dangly
amazing thing was that, as well as writing it, Unwin could speak this
sort of thing without script or rehearsal. Apparently he got the idea
when a small boy, when one day his mother returned home injured and told
him that she had just “falolloped over” in the street (= fallen +
flopped) and “grozed” her knee.
varied series of jobs (including one as a “seasick merchant seaman”), in
the 1940s — radio’s Golden Age — he took a position at the BBC. What he
was employed as isn’t clear, since some speak of him as a “reporter”,
others as a “sound engineer”. Either way, by now he had discovered
Edward Lear’s verse and had developed a unique nonsense language for
telling bedtime stories to his children.
Unwin was entertaining his colleagues with his comical way of talking.
Eventually he came to the attention of comedian Tommy Handley’s
scriptwriters, and was persuaded to do a bit of humorous broadcasting.
He made his professional debut in 1949 with a parody of a sports
commentary for BBC Midlands. Later he migrated to The Children’s Hour
as Uncle Stan and began doing spot acts on various radio programmes and
variety shows, as well as being invited to be guest speaker at public
with Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and Barbara Windsor, Unwin was one
of the voices in the animatronic TV series The Great Bong. He
appeared briefly in many comedy films, including Carry On Regardless
(1961) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). A TV show of his own —
Unwin Time — followed. He wrote a number of books, and made several
records (including the psychedelic Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake with
The Small Faces), and was still doing radio work and conference
entertainment into his 80s.
language Unwin perfected became known as Unwinese, though other labels
for it have also sprung up, such as “poetic gobbledygook” or “plausible
malapropisms”. Some people have heard in it echoes of Pig Latin (anleystay
unwinway?). For my money the most flattering description is “it might
almost have come from the pages of Finnegans Wake” (Edward
Lear Home Page).
as Spike Milligan, Unwin’s devoted fans included Peter Cook, the Monty
Python cast and John Lennon. The latter’s books John Lennon in His
Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works were obviously — and, I
understand, avowedly — inspired by Unwinese, as in this example:
and globbering they drugged theyselves rampling or dancing with wild
abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves . . .
aficionados among our readership will be delighted to learn that Unwin
was a great music lover. (How could he not’ve been, him with his humour
based primarily on the sounds of words?) Very knowledgeable about music,
too, he was. Here is a brief excerpt from a piece on jazz he prepared at
the age of 85 for Ronnie Scott’s magazine (Issue No. 100, July-August
The full text is well worth a read if you have Internet access.
(how or what) came, is the dizziest of a fundamole. Not mark you of a
Gillespeed fundamole, O no. There were no recorms vailabold ‘til 1917;
these by white perslode, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Maybe
otherwise jazz handy down by fardles’n mothers ‘til the first recorms in
1923 in a railside studio ramshackload by a black onsombly; Oliver’s,
1923, with his Creole Jazz Band, which inclubed Louis Armstrong who
strode with first fine second trumpy-blow. There’s a start of a
historical impaggers indeedy-ho!
funny it continues, interspersed with such witty linguistic contortions
Venuti (catgut’n violin scrapey-joy, y’know) and Eddie Lang’s guitar
Basics and Jimmy Luncefolder;
Swing era of Belly Goodmold, Dorsey’n Dorsey and Krupa drumset’n symbold;
bebop] Sollagommorra t’you lot and devil takers hindemyth.
say “goodlee byelode”, I should alert you to the vital news that that a
belated Paglet 5 of Larick and the Aratronts (written in
Bandersnatch, of course) is to be found
later in this issue.