Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Would it be of any use, now," thought Alice, "to speak to this mouse? Everything is so out-of-the-way down here, that I should think it very likely it can talk: at any rate, there's no harm in trying." So she began: "O Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool? I am very tired of swimming about here, O Mouse!" (Alice thought this must be the right way of speaking to a mouse: she had never done such a thing before, but she remembered having seen, in her brother's Latin Grammar, "A mouse – of a mouse – to a mouse – a mouse – O mouse!") (Wonderland 2.15)
Alice's humorous misapplication of her brother's Latin textbook is the first indication that the ways of communicating she's learned in school aren't going to be much help to her in Wonderland – although they are good for a laugh.
"In that case," said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, "I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies – "
"Speak English!" said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and, what's more, I don't believe you do either!" (Wonderland 3.14-15)
The Eaglet objects to making language too complicated; there's no need, after all, to put obstacles in the way of understanding one another. The Dodo, Lewis Carroll's own self-parody (a play on the way he would stutter his real name "Do-Do-Dodgson"), likes using flowery language and fancy words, but this really isn't necessary for his audience of child readers.
"You are not attending!" said the Mouse to Alice, severely. "What are you thinking of?"
"I beg your pardon," said Alice very humbly: "you had got to the fifth bend, I think?"
"I had not!" cried the Mouse, sharply and very angrily.
"A knot!" said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and looking anxiously about her "Oh, do let me help to undo it!" (Wonderland 3.34-37)
Before the "Who's on First?" sketch, there were the Alice books. In each line, a new misinterpretation (usually totally illogical) interferes with the communication between characters. Alice's confusion of the homophones "tale" / "tail" and "knot" / "not" is behind this comedic exchange. (Take a look at Chapter 3 to see the Mouse's "tale" pictured as a concrete poem "tail.")