The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

not choose to believe in a water-baby when he saw it, she made him believe in worse things than water-babies—in unicorns, fire-drakes, manticoras, basilisks, amphisbaenas, griffins, phoenixes, rocs, orcs, dog-headed men, three-headed dogs, three-bodied geryons, and other pleasant creatures, which folks think never existed yet, and which folks hope never will exist, though they know nothing about the matter, and never will; and these creatures so upset, terrified, flustered, aggravated, confused, astounded, horrified, and totally flabbergasted the poor professor that the doctors said that he was out of his wits for three months; and perhaps they were right, as they are now and then.
So all the doctors in the county were called in to make a report on his case; and of course every one of them flatly contradicted the other: else what use is there in being men of science? But at last the majority agreed on a report in the true medical language, one half bad Latin, the other half worse Greek, and the rest what might have been English, if they had only learnt to write it. And this is the beginning thereof -
“The subanhypaposupernal anastomoses of peritomic diacellurite in the encephalo digital region of the distinguished individual of whose symptomatic phoenomena we had the melancholy honour (subsequently to a preliminary diagnostic inspection) of making an inspectorial diagnosis, presenting the interexclusively quadrilateral and antinomian diathesis known as Bumpsterhausen’s blue follicles, we proceeded” -
But what they proceeded to do My Lady never knew; for she was so frightened at the long words that she ran for her life, and locked herself into her bedroom, for fear of being squashed by the words and strangled by the sentence. A boa constrictor, she said, was bad company enough: but what was a boa constrictor made of paving stones?
“It was quite shocking! What can they think is the matter with him?” said she to the old nurse.
“That his wit’s just addled; may be wi’ unbelief and heathenry,” quoth she.
“Then why can’t they say so?”
And the heaven, and the sea, and the rocks, and the vales re-echoed—“Why indeed?” But the doctors never heard them.
So she made Sir John write to the Times to command the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being to put a tax on long words; -
A light tax on words over three syllables, which are necessary evils, like rats: but, like them, must be kept down judiciously.
A heavy tax on words over four syllables, as heterodoxy, spontaneity, spiritualism, spuriosity, etc.
And on words over five syllables (of which I hope no one will wish to see any examples), a totally prohibitory tax.