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Word of the Week: ‘bandersnatch’


We take a closer look at the words and phrases that are trending online and in the media. This week: ‘bandersnatch’.

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Charlie Brooker has done it again. Popped our very merry Christmas bubble by releasing the latest in his technology-focussed anthology series, Black Mirror.

As usual, the series has left us feeling frightened of our phones and flinching at new followers. But the standalone, interactive episode ‘Bandersnatch’ has also got the nation wondering what the hell the word ‘bandersnatch’ even means. And that’s where we like to come in.

‘Bandersnatch’ has seen a sudden surge in Google searches and become a buzzword on Twitter, as people try and wrap their booze-addled brains around the interactive episode (dubbed the future of TV streaming) which allows viewers to “choose their own adventure” or ending.

This has led to ‘Bandersnatch endings’ also becoming a ‘breakout’ term on Google (meaning the search term grew by a whopping 5000%) as viewers scramble to discover the alternative endings, of which there are five.

“The frumious Bandersnatch”

Despite its modern usage, the word was first coined by Lewis Carroll back in the 19th century, appearing in Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) – the sequel to the iconic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It later reappeared in the 1876 poem The Hunting of the Snark.

The nonsense word – likely to be one of Carroll’s many portmanteaus – that originally described a fearsome and “frumious” fictional creature has now come straight out of the looking glass and into modern day society.

A ‘bandersnatch’ is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a fierce mythical creature immune to bribery and capable of moving very fast”, or alternatively as “a wildly grotesque or bizarre individual”.

In its usual idiosyncratic way, the Urban Dictionary defines it simply as: “someone that is being extremely annoying”, gaining status as both a search-worthy title and a top-class insult.

Although it might be new to most people, the word has made sporadic appearances over the decades – as the name of the 60s psychedelic rock band, Frumious Bandersnatch and later in 80s video game series, Final Fantasy. Its latest Brooker-induced appearance works as a disturbing linguistic reminder of how much we literally now live our lives ‘through the looking glass’ – or the ‘black mirror’.