Epigram

An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. The word is derived from the Greek: ἐπίγραμμα epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on, to inscribe",[1] and the literary device has been employed for over two millennia.

The presence of wit or sarcasm tends to distinguish non-poetic epigrams from aphorisms and adages, which may lack them.

Quodlibets Epigrams
Robert Hayman's 1628 book Quodlibets devotes much of its text to epigrams.

Ancient Greek

The Greek tradition of epigrams began as poems inscribed on votive offerings at sanctuaries – including statues of athletes – and on funerary monuments, for example "Go tell it to the Spartans, passersby...". These original epigrams did the same job as a short prose text might have done, but in verse. Epigram became a literary genre in the Hellenistic period, probably developing out of scholarly collections of inscriptional epigrams.

Though modern epigrams are usually thought of as very short, Greek literary epigram was not always as short as later examples, and the divide between "epigram" and "elegy" is sometimes indistinct (they share a characteristic metre, elegiac couplets). In the classical period, the clear distinction between them was that epigrams were inscribed and meant to be read, while elegies were recited and meant to be heard. Some elegies could be quite short, but only public epigrams were longer than ten lines. All the same, the origin of epigram in inscription exerted a residual pressure to keep things concise, even when they were recited in Hellenistic times. Many of the characteristic types of literary epigram look back to inscriptional contexts, particularly funerary epigram, which in the Hellenistic era becomes a literary exercise. Many "sympotic" epigrams combine sympotic and funerary elements – they tell their readers (or listeners) to drink and live for today because life is short. Generally, any theme found in classical elegies could be and were adapted for later literary epigrams.

Hellenistic epigrams are also thought of as having a "point" – that is, the poem ends in a punchline or satirical twist. By no means do all Greek epigrams behave this way; many are simply descriptive, but Meleager of Gadara and Philippus of Thessalonica, the first comprehensive anthologists, preferred the short and witty epigram. Since their collections helped form knowledge of the genre in Rome and then later throughout Europe, Epigram came to be associated with 'point,' especially because the European epigram tradition takes the Latin poet Martial as its principal model; he copied and adapted Greek models (particularly the contemporary poets Lucillius and Nicarchus) selectively and in the process redefined the genre, aligning it with the indigenous Roman tradition of 'satura', hexameter satire, as practised by (among others) his contemporary Juvenal. Greek epigram was actually much more diverse, as the Milan Papyrus now indicates.

A major source for Greek literary epigram is the Greek Anthology, a compilation from the 10th century AD based on older collections, including those of Meleager and Philippus. It contains epigrams ranging from the Hellenistic period through the Imperial period and Late Antiquity into the compiler's own Byzantine era – a thousand years of short elegiac texts on every topic under the sun. The Anthology includes one book of Christian epigrams as well as one book of erotic and amorous homosexual epigrams called the Μοῦσα Παιδικἠ (Mousa Paidike, "The Boyish Muse").

Ancient Roman

Roman epigrams owe much to their Greek predecessors and contemporaries. Roman epigrams, however, were often more satirical than Greek ones, and at times used obscene language for effect. Latin epigrams could be composed as inscriptions or graffiti, such as this one from Pompeii, which exists in several versions and seems from its inexact meter to have been composed by a less educated person. Its content makes it clear how popular such poems were:

Admiror, O paries, te non cecidisse ruinis
qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas.
I'm astonished, wall, that you haven't collapsed into ruins,
since you're holding up the weary verse of so many poets.

However, in the literary world, epigrams were most often gifts to patrons or entertaining verse to be published, not inscriptions. Many Roman writers seem to have composed epigrams, including Domitius Marsus, whose collection Cicuta (now lost) was named after the poisonous plant Cicuta for its biting wit, and Lucan, more famous for his epic Pharsalia. Authors whose epigrams survive include Catullus, who wrote both invectives and love epigrams – his poem 85 is one of the latter.

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requires.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.
I hate and I love. Maybe you'd like to know why I do?
I don't know, but I feel it happening, and I am tormented.

Martial, however, is considered to be the master of the Latin epigram.[2][3][4] His technique relies heavily on the satirical poem with a joke in the last line, thus drawing him closer to the modern idea of epigram as a genre. Here he defines his genre against a (probably fictional) critic (in the latter half of 2.77):

Disce quod ignoras: Marsi doctique Pedonis
saepe duplex unum pagina tractat opus.
Non sunt longa quibus nihil est quod demere possis,
sed tu, Cosconi, disticha longa facis.
Learn what you don't know: one work of (Domitius) Marsus or learned Pedo
often stretches out over a doublesided page.
A work isn't long if you can't take anything out of it,
but you, Cosconius, write even a couplet too long.

Poets known for their epigrams whose work has been lost include Cornificia.

English

In early English literature the short couplet poem was dominated by the poetic epigram and proverb, especially in the translations of the Bible and the Greek and Roman poets. Since 1600, two successive lines of verse that rhyme with each other, known as a couplet featured as a part of the longer sonnet form, most notably in William Shakespeare's sonnets. Sonnet 76 is an excellent example. The two line poetic form as a closed couplet was also used by William Blake in his poem Auguries of Innocence and also by Byron (Don Juan (Byron) XIII); John Gay (Fables); Alexander Pope (An Essay on Man).

The first work of English literature penned in North America was Robert Hayman's Quodlibets, Lately Come Over from New Britaniola, Old Newfoundland, which is a collection of over 300 epigrams, many of which do not conform to the two-line rule or trend. While the collection was written between 1618 and 1628 in what is now Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, it was published shortly after his return to Britain.[5]

In Victorian times the epigram couplet was often used by the prolific American poet Emily Dickinson. Her poem No. 1534 is a typical example of her eleven poetic epigrams. The novelist George Eliot also included couplets throughout her writings. Her best example is in her sequenced sonnet poem entitled Brother and Sister[6] in which each of the eleven sequenced sonnet ends with a couplet. In her sonnets, the preceding lead-in-line, to the couplet ending of each, could be thought of as a title for the couplet, as is shown in Sonnet VIII of the sequence.

During the early 20th century, the rhymed epigram couplet form developed into a fixed verse image form, with an integral title as the third line. Adelaide Crapsey codified the couplet form into a two line rhymed verse of ten syllables per line with her image couplet poem On Seeing Weather-Beaten Trees[7] first published in 1915.

By the 1930s, the five-line cinquain verse form became widely known in the poetry of the Scottish poet William Soutar. These were originally labelled epigrams but later identified as image cinquains in the style of Adelaide Crapsey. J. V. Cunningham was also a noted writer of epigrams, (a medium suited to a 'short-breathed' person).[8]

Poetic

What is an Epigram? a dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge ("Epigram", 1809)
Some can gaze and not be sick
But I could never learn the trick.
There's this to say for blood and breath;
They give a man a taste for death.
A. E. Housman
Little strokes
Fell great oaks.
Benjamin Franklin
Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she's at rest – and so am I.
John Dryden
I am His Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Alexander Pope
I'm tired of Love: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.
But Money gives me pleasure all the time.
Hilaire Belloc
I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.
Nikos Kazantzakis
To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it.
— Charles Robert Anon (Fernando Pessoa)
This Humanist whom no belief constrained
Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.
J.V. Cunningham
All things pass
Love and mankind is grass.
Stevie Smith

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "epigram". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ William Fitzgerald (21 February 2013). How to Read a Latin Poem: If You Can't Read Latin Yet. OUP Oxford. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-19-163204-4.
  3. ^ Kristina Milnor (2014). Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii. OUP Oxford. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-19-968461-8.
  4. ^ Sir John Harington (2009). The Epigrams of Sir John Harington. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7546-6002-6.
  5. ^ Hayman, Robert; Reynolds, David. Quodlibets, Lately Come Over from New Britaniola, Old Newfoundland. Newfoundland: Problematic Press. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9780986902727. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  6. ^ http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/2696.html
  7. ^ Crapsey, Adelaide (1 January 1997). "Verse / Adelaide Crapsey [electronic text]".
  8. ^ The Poems of J.V.Cunningham (ed Tomothy Steele) Faber&Faber London ISBN 978-0-571-24193-4

Further reading

  • Bruss, Jon. 2010. "Epigram." In A Companion to Hellenistic Literature. Edited by James J. Clauss and Martine Cuypers, 117–135. Chichester, UK: Blackwell.
  • Day, Joseph. 1989. "Rituals in Stone: Early Greek Grave Epigrams and Monuments." Journal of Hellenic Studies 109:22–27.
  • Gow, A. S. F. 1958. The Greek Anthology: Sources and Ascriptions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Nisbet, Gideon. 2003. Greek Epigram in the Roman Empire: Martial’s Forgotten Rivals. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Nixon, Paul. 1963. Martial and the Modern Epigram. New York: Cooper Square.
  • Petrain, David. 2012. "The Archaeology of the Epigrams from the Tabulae Iliacae: Adaptation, Allusion, Alteration." Mnemosyne 65.4-5: 597-635.
  • Rimell, Victoria. 2008. Martial’s Rome: Empire and the Ideology of Epigram. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Rosen, Ralph. 2007. "The Hellenistic Epigrams on Archilochus and Hipponax." In Brill’s Companion to Hellenistic Epigram: Down to Philip. Edited by Peter Bing and Jon Bruss, 459–476. Brill’s Companions in Classical Studies. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
  • Sullivan, John P. 1990. "Martial and English Poetry." Classical Antiquity 9:149–174.
  • Tarán, Sonya Lida. 1979. The Art of variation in the Hellenistic Epigram. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

External links

Adage

An adage (; Latin: adagium) is a concise, memorable, and usually philosophical aphorism that communicates an important truth derived from experience, custom, or both, and that many persons consider true and credible because of its longeval tradition, i. e. being handed down generation to generation, or memetic replication.

An adage sometimes implicates a failure to plan, such as "do not count your chickens before they hatch" and "do not burn your bridges". Adages may be interesting observations, ethical rules, or skeptical comments on life in general.

Some adages are products of folk wisdom that attempt to summarize a basic truth; these are generally known as "proverbs" or "bywords". An adage that describes a general moral rule is a "maxim". A pithy expression that has not necessarily gained credibility by tradition, but is distinguished by especial depth or excellent style is denominated an "aphorism", while one distinguished by wit or irony is often denominated an "epigram".

Through overuse, an adage may become denominated a "cliché", "truism", or "old saw". Adages originating in modernity are often given proper names and denominated "laws", in imitation of the nomenclature of physical laws, or "principles". Some adages, such as Murphy's Law, are first formulated informally and given proper names later, while others, such as the Peter Principle, are given proper names when formulated; it might be argued that the latter do not represent true adages, but the two are often difficult to distinguish.Adages that were collected and used by ancient writers inspired Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus to publish his own collection. He revised his moderate volume of 800 adages multiple times until the final edition of Adagia published in 1536 included over 4,000. There have been many such collections since, usually in vernacular languages.Adages formulated in popular works of fiction often find their way into popular culture, especially when a subculture devoted to the work or its genre exists, as in the case of novels of science fiction. Many professions and subcultures create their own adages, which are cognizable as a kind of jargon; such adages may find their way into popular use, sometimes being altered in the process. Online communities, such as those that develop in Internet forums or Usenet newsgroups, often generate their own adages.

Agathon

Agathon (; Ancient Greek: Ἀγάθων; c. 448 – c. 400 BC) was an Athenian tragic poet whose works have been lost. He is best known for his appearance in Plato's Symposium, which describes the banquet given to celebrate his obtaining a prize for his first tragedy at the Lenaia in 416. He is also a prominent character in Aristophanes' comedy the Thesmophoriazusae.

Aphorism

An aphorism (from Greek ἀφορισμός: aphorismos, denoting "delimitation", "distinction", and "definition") is a concise, terse, laconic, and/or memorable expression of a general truth or principle. They are often handed down by tradition from generation to generation. The concept is distinct from those of an adage, brocard, chiasmus, epigram, maxim (legal or philosophical), principle, proverb, and saying; some of these concepts are species of aphorism.

Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus)

The Bibliotheca (Ancient Greek: Βιβλιοθήκη Bibliothēkē, "Library"), also known as the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, is a compendium of Greek myths and heroic legends, arranged in three books, generally dated to the first or second century AD.The author was traditionally thought to be Apollodorus of Athens, but that attribution is now regarded as false, and so "Pseudo-" was added to Apollodorus.

The Bibliotheca has been called "the most valuable mythographical work that has come down from ancient times". An epigram recorded by the important intellectual Patriarch Photius I of Constantinople expressed its purpose:

It has the following not ungraceful epigram: 'Draw your knowledge of the past from me and read the ancient tales of learned lore. Look neither at the page of Homer, nor of elegy, nor tragic muse, nor epic strain. Seek not the vaunted verse of the cycle; but look in me and you will find in me all that the world contains'.

The brief and unadorned accounts of myth in the Bibliotheca have led some commentators to suggest that even its complete sections are an epitome of a lost work.

Epigram (newspaper)

Epigram is an independent student newspaper of the University of Bristol. It was established in 1988 by James Landale, now a senior BBC journalist, who studied politics at Bristol. The former editor of The Daily Telegraph, William Lewis, was a writer for 'Epigram in its early years.

Epigram is produced fortnightly during term time, and as of May 2017 the newspaper has reached 314 editions. It is available as a paper edition distributed freely around the university, with articles and discussion also appearing online. The website has now become key to Epigram's output, with tens of thousands of hits each month. The paper follows a traditional newspaper layout: the front of the newspaper is devoted to news issues, particularly those concerning students at the university.

With the addition of online editors for each of Epigram's 14 sections in order to update the paper's growing website, it now has a 50-strong editorial team mostly consisting of students from the second year and above (formal recruitment is carried out in the last term of an academic year). The current editors are students Cameron Scheijde and Ed Southgate, with Nikki Peach as the deputy editor and Hannah Worthington as the online editor. All students at the University are encouraged to write for the paper, with hundreds of students contributing each year. Each section of the paper has a weekly publicised meeting to discuss and allocate stories for the next edition - there are opportunities to join each section team at the Freshers' Fair at the beginning of the year or by emailing the relevant section editor.

Epigram (programming language)

Epigram is a functional programming language with dependent types. Epigram also refers to the IDE usually packaged with the language. Epigram's type system is strong enough to express program specifications. The goal is to support a smooth transition from ordinary programming to integrated programs and proofs whose correctness can be checked and certified by the compiler. Epigram exploits the propositions as types principle, and is based on intuitionistic type theory.

The Epigram prototype was implemented by Conor McBride based on joint work with James McKinna. Its development is continued by the Epigram group in Nottingham, Durham, St Andrews and Royal Holloway in the UK. The current experimental implementation of the Epigram system is freely available together with a user manual, a tutorial and some background material. The system has been used under Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.

It is currently unmaintained, and version 2, which was intended to implement Observational Type Theory, was never officially released, however there exists a GitHub mirror, last updated in 2012. The design of Epigram and Epigram 2 have inspired the development of other systems such as Agda, Idris and Coq.

Epigram Books

Epigram Books is an independent publishing company in Singapore. It is known for publishing works of Singapore-based writers, poets and playwrights.

Epigrams (Homer)

Seventeen Epigrams were attributed to Homer in antiquity. They are preserved in a number of texts, including the Life of Homer (Pseudo-Herodotus), the Contest of Homer and Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns.The Epigrams are thought to antedate the Pseudo-Herodotian Life of Homer which was apparently written around the epigrams to create appropriate context. Epigram III on Midas of Larissa has also been attributed to Cleobulus of Lindus, who was considered to be one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Epigram XIV was attributed to Hesiod by Julius Pollux and Epigram XI has been described as "purely Hesoidic".Epigram III is also partially quoted in Plato, Phaedrus 264d, though it is not ascribed to Homer.Epigrams III, XIII and XVII are included in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod and epigram I is included in some manuscripts of the Homeric Hymns. The Epigrams were included in the editio princeps of Homers works printed by Demetrius Chalchondyles in 1488.

Epigrams (Plato)

Eighteen Epigrams are attributed to Plato, most of them considered spurious. These are short poems suitable for dedicatory purposes written in the form of elegiac couplets.

Ergoteles of Himera

Ergoteles (Ancient Greek: Ἐργοτέλης) was a native of Knossos and Olympic runner in the Ancient Olympic Games.

Civil disorder (ancient Greek: Stasis) had compelled him to leave Crete. He came to Sicily and was naturalized as a citizen of Himera. He won the Olympic dolichos (running race) of 472 BC and 464 BC, as well as winning twice in both Pythian and Isthmian games.

A four-line inscribed epigram of c. 450 BC found in Olympia commemorates the six Ergotelian victories. The base of an inscribed statue at Olympia, which was seen and exploited by the geographer Pausanias, was rediscovered in 1953. Pindar honoured Ergoteles with the following Epinikion hymn:

The Ergotelis multi-sport club established in 1929 in Heraklion, Crete, was named after Ergoteles, in commemoration of the first Olympic champion native to the modern Heraklion prefecture.

List of speakers in Plato's dialogues

The following is a list of the speakers found in the dialogues traditionally ascribed to Plato, including extensively quoted, indirect and conjured speakers. Dialogues, as well as Platonic Epistles and Epigrams, in which these individuals appear dramatically but do not speak are listed separately.

Unnamed speakers

Martial

Marcus Valerius Martialis (known in English as Martial ) (March, between 38 and 41 AD – between 102 and 104 AD) was a Roman poet from Hispania (modern Spain) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirises city life and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances, and romanticises his provincial upbringing. He wrote a total of 1,561 epigrams, of which 1,235 are in elegiac couplets.

Martial has been called the greatest Latin epigrammatist, and is considered the creator of the modern epigram.

Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine

The Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine (Palace of the Palatine School) is a historic building of Milan, Italy, located in Piazza Mercanti, the former city centre in the Middle Ages. It served as the seat of the most prestigious higher school of medieval Milan. Many notable Milanese scholars of different ages studied or taught in these schools; Augustine of Hippo and Cesare Beccaria, among others, served as teachers in the Palatine. The current building dates back to 1644, when it replaced an older one, which had the same function and was destroyed by a fire.

The school was established in Piazza Mercanti under Giovanni Maria Visconti. In 1644, they were destroyed by a fire, and rebuilt based on the prestigious model of the nearby Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, by architect Carlo Buzzi.

The building is decorated with several monuments, including a plaque with an epigram by Ausonius celebrating Milan as the "New Rome" of the 4th century, a statue of Augustine by sculptor Pietro Lasagna, and a statue of Ausonius.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 15

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 15 (P. Oxy. 15) is a fragment of an epigram by an unknown author, written in Greek. It was discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 in Oxyrhynchus. The fragment is dated to the third century. It is housed in the Glasgow University Library (Special Collections Department). The text was published by Grenfell and Hunt in 1898.The manuscript was written on papyrus in the form of a roll. The measurements of the fragment are 92 by 157 mm. The text is written in an irregular and sloping uncial hand.

Saying

A saying is any concisely written or spoken expression that is especially memorable because of its meaning or style. Sayings are categorized as follows:

Aphorism: a general, observational truth; "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth".Adage, proverb, or saw: a widely known or popular aphorism that has gained credibility by long use or tradition.

Apophthegm: "an edgy, more cynical aphorism; such as, 'Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.'"

Cliché or bromide: an unoriginal and overused saying.

Platitude: a cliché that is unsuccessfully presented as though it were meaningful, original, or effective.

Epigram: a clever and often poetic written saying that comments on a specific person, idea, or thing; it especially denominates such a saying that is conspicuously put at the beginning of a text.

Epitaph: a saying in honor of a decedent, often engraved on a headstone or plaque.

Epithet: a descriptive word or saying already widely associated with a specific person, idea, or thing.

Idiom: a saying that has only a non-literal interpretation; "an expression whose meaning can't be derived simply by hearing it, such as 'Kick the bucket.'"Four-character idiom:

Chengyu: Chinese four-character idioms

Sajaseong-eo: Korean form of four-character idioms

Yojijukugo: Japanese form of four-character idioms

Mantra: a religious, mystical, or other spiritual saying that is repeated, for example, in meditation.

Maxim: (1) an instructional expression of a general principle or rule of morality or (2) simply a synonym for "aphorism"; they include:

Brocards

Gnomes

Legal maxims

Motto: a saying used frequently by a person or group to summarize its general mission.

Slogan: a motto with the goal of persuading.

Quip: a clever or humorous saying based on an observation.

Witticism: a saying that is clever and usually humorous, and notable for its form or style just as much as, or more than, its meaning.

Sonnet 154

As the last in the famed collection of sonnets written by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare from 1592 to 1598, Sonnet 154 is most often thought of in a pair with the previous sonnet, number 153. As A. L. Rowse states in Shakespeare's Sonnets: The Problems Solved, Sonnets 153 and 154 "are not unsuitably placed as a kind of coda to the Dark Lady Sonnets, to which they relate." Rowse calls attention to the fact that Sonnets 153 and 154 "serve quite well to round off the affair Shakespeare had with Emilia, the woman characterized as the Dark Lady, and the section of the Dark Lady sonnets". Shakespeare used Greek mythology to address love and despair in relationships. The material in Sonnets 153 and 154 has been shown to relate to the six-line epigram by the Byzantine poet known as Marianus Scholasticus, who published a collection of 3,500 poems called The Greek Anthology. When translated, the epigram resembles Sonnets 153 and 154, addressing love and the story of Cupid, the torch, and the Nymph's attempt to extinguish the torch.

Stalin Epigram

The Stalin epigram, also known as The Kremlin Highlander (Russian: Кремлёвский горец) is a satirical poem by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, written in November 1933. The poem describes the climate of fear in the Soviet Union.Mandelstam read the poem only to a few friends, including Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova. The poem played a role in his own arrest and the arrests of Akhmatova's son and husband, Lev Gumilev and Nikolay Punin.The poem was almost the first case Genrikh Yagoda dealt with after becoming NKVD boss. Bukharin visited Yagoda to intercede for Mandelstam, unaware of the nature of his "offense". According to Mandelstam's widow: "Yagoda liked M.'s poem so much that he even learned it by heart - he recited it to Bukharin - but he would not have hesitated to destroy the whole of literature, past, present and future, if he had thought it to his advantage. For people of this extraordinary type, human blood is like water."

The phrase "Ossetian torso" in the final line refers to the ethnicity of Stalin, whose paternal grandfather was possibly an ethnic Ossetian.

Thronion (Illyria)

Thronion or Thronium (Greek: Θρόνιον) was a Greek city of the Euboians and Locrians in Epirus, near Amantia. It is believed to lie somewhere to the south of Vlorë, between the Shushicë River and the sea. It was to have been founded after the Trojan War by the Abantes of Euboea and the inhabitants of the Locrian Thronium. It was taken at an early period by the inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Apollonia, and annexed to their territory, as appears from an epigram inscribed on a dedicatory offering of the Apolloniatae at Olympia.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fictional characters in an English nursery rhyme and in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Their names may have originally come from an epigram written by poet John Byrom. The nursery rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19800. The names have since become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways, generally in a derogatory context.

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