Martin Gardner, The Annotated Alice:
miserable or unhappy; contemptable
(whence mimserable and miserable) ‘unhappy’.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed.:
dial. ‘Prim, prudish; contemptible’ (E.D.D.). Lewis Carroll’s mimsy, which may be an invented word, has influenced all subsequent uses. 1855 ‘L. CARROLL’ Rectory Umbrella & Mischmasch (1932) 139 All mimsy were the borogoves. Ibid. 140 Mimsy, (whence mimserable and miserable). ‘Unhappy.’ 1880 Antrim & Down Gloss., Mim, Mimsey, prim, prudish. 1895 S. CHRISTIAN Sarah (ed. 4) 262 She is no mimzy miss to be scared, or a reed to break if you lean your hand on it. 1911 C. MACKENZIE Passionate Elopement xxi. 186 Four shillings and sixpence, ma’am, for a little mimsy book not so thick as the magick history of Jack the Giant Killer. 1920 D. H. LAWRENCE Touch & Go 6 Good plays? You might as well say mimsy bomtittle plays, you’d be saying as much. 1933 W. DE LA MARE Lord Fish 171 Treading mimsey as a cat. 1934 Times Educ. Suppl. 24 Mar. p. iv/2 A people unimaginative enough to accept a mimsy and scrannel ‘P.R.’ in place of the organ music, the soul-uplifting harmony of ‘Proportional Representation’. 1936Punch 10 June 650/1 ‘It’s the glamour of it,’ sighed Josephine. ‘Whenever I smell a programme I go quite mimseyhonestly I do.’ 1937 ‘N. BLAKE’ There’s Trouble Brewing i. 24 An affected mimsy sort of voice that she reserved presumably for cultural pronouncements: Nigel preferred her normal, unmitigated boom. 1956 J. CANNAN People to be Found vii. 91 With horror they had seen the lawns of the Botanic Gardens torn up and replaced by a mimsy pseudo-Elizabethan rose-garden. 1963 Times 8 Feb. 14/3 Moreover his interpolated variation in the first act, danced to the normally unused andante of the pas de trois and consisting largely of slow pirouettes en attitude, looked as mimsy as the borogroves [sic], and could not be regarded as successful.« Back to Glossary Index