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'Twas brillig and the slithy toves,
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. ~ Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass

Nonsense is senseless or meaningless talk, language, or ideas; an untrue statement; or behaviour that is foolish or not straightforward. Nonsense, in one form or another, has often been practiced in literature to illustrate a point or highlight something that is ridiculous or contradictory; or, alternatively, can surface in other, more everyday contexts as something said indiscreetly or thoughtlessly that is liable to be misunderstood.


There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes or other normal amusements of mankind. ~ G. K. Chesterton
Alphabetized by author
Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. ~ Theodor Seuss Geisel
Such a shuffleing, nonsensical paragraph was, I firmly believe, never put together since the invention of letters. That which I do not, and which, I think, no one can, understand. I shall not meddle with. ~ Joseph Ritson
  • Nothing is capable to being well set to music that is not nonsense.
  • Undergraduates owe their happiness chiefly to the consciousness that they are no longer at school. The nonsense which was knocked out of them at school is all put gently back at Oxford or Cambridge.
  • Nonsense, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.
  • To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life.
    • Gelett Burgess (1866–1951), U.S. humorist and illustrator. The Romance of the Commonplace, 'The Sense of Humour', (1916).
  • There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes or other normal amusements of mankind.
  • If, therefore, nonsense is really to be the literature of the future, it must have its own version of the Cosmos to offer; the world must not only be tragic, romantic, and religious, it must be nonsensical also.
  • Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
    • Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (1957)
      (This is an example of a sentence which, although grammatically acceptable, is without meaning.).
  • The nonsense that charms is close to sense.
    • Mason Cooley (1927-2002), U.S. aphorist. City Aphorisms, Eleventh Selection (1993).
  • Nonsense is socially OK, but not stupidity.
    • Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms, Fourteenth Selection (1994).
  • Nine–tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense.
    • Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), British Prime Minister and author. Lothair, Ch. 29 (1870).
  • To die for faction is a common evil,
    But to be hanged for nonsense is the Devil.
  • I've a great fancy to see my own funeral afore I die.
  • Nonsense and beauty have close connections — closer connections than Art will allow.
    • E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey, Part I, Chapter 12 (1907).
  • As Charms are nonsense, Nonsence is a Charm.
  • Forgive me my nonsense as I also forgive the nonsense of those who think they talk sense.
    • Robert Frost, Letter to Louis Untermeyer, 7th August 1915.
  • It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.
  • Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age.
    • Theodor Seuss Geisel, [Dr. Seuss] (1904 –1991), American writer and cartoonist. As quoted in "Author Isn't Just a Cat in the Hat" by Miles Corwin in The Los Angeles Times (27 November 1983); also in Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004) by Philip Nel, p. 38.
  • For one of us was born a twin
    And not a soul knew which.
  • Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable.
  • Alban was silent. It was difficult to talk to a man who spoke obvious nonsense.
  • No one is exempt from talking nonsense. The great misfortune is to do it solemnly.
  • If others examined themselves attentively, as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of inanity and nonsense. Get rid of it I cannot without getting rid of myself.
  • The evolution of sense is, in a sense, the evolution of nonsense.
    • Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), Russian-born American novelist. Pnin, Ch. 2, Sect. 1 (1957).
  • Probably the best nonsense poetry is produced gradually and accidentally, by communities rather than by individuals.
    • George Orwell, Nonsense Poetry, in 'Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays'.
  • Any bit of nonsense can be computerized—astrology, biorhythms, the I Ching—but that doesn’t make the nonsense any more valid.
  • A little nonsense now and then
    Is relished by the wisest men.
    • The anonymous proverb is sometimes (apparently) erroneously attributed to politician and author Joseph Addison (May 1, 1672-June 17, 1719). It dates at least from the early 19th century, when it was already known as an old saying in The New York Mirror, Vol. 1, No. 19 (6 December 1823), p. 151
  • A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself.
    • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Act II
  • The belief that the people of a democracy rule themselves through their elected representatives, though sanctified by tradition and made venerable by multiple repetitions, is actually mystical nonsense.  In any election, only a percentage of the people vote.  Those who can't vote because of age or other disqualifications, and those who don't vote because of confusion, apathy, or disgust at a Tweedledum-Tweedledummer choice can hardly be said to have any voice in the passage of the laws which govern them.  Nor can the individuals as yet unborn, who will be ruled by those laws in the future.  And, out of those who do "exercise their franchise," the large minority who voted for the loser are also deprived of a voice, at least during the term of the winner they voted against.

    But even the individuals who voted and who managed to pick a winner are not actually ruling themselves in any sense of the word.  They voted for a man, not for the specific laws which will govern them.  Even all those who had cast their ballots for the winning candidate would be hopelessly confused and divided if asked to vote on these actual laws.  Nor would their representative be bound to abide by their wishes, even if it could be decided what these "collective wishes" were.  And besides all this, a large percentage of the actual power of a mature democracy, such as the U.S.A., is in the hands of the tens of thousands of faceless appointed bureaucrats who are unresponsive to the will of any citizen without special pull.

    Under a democratic form of government, a minority of the individuals governed select the winning candidate.  The winning candidate then proceeds to decide issues largely on the basis of pressure from special-interest groups.  What it actually amounts to is rule by those with political pull over those without it.  Contrary to the brainwashing we have received in government-run schools, democracy—the rule of the people through their elected representatives—is a cruel hoax!

    Not only is democracy mystical nonsense, it is also immoral.  If one man has no right to impose his wishes on another, then ten million men have no right to impose their wishes on the one, since the initiation of force is wrong (and the assent of even the most overwhelming majority can never make it morally permissible).  Opinions—even majority opinions—neither create truth nor alter facts.  A lynch mob is democracy in action.  So much for mob rule.

  • There is absolutely no common sense; it is common nonsense.
  • A careless song, with a little nonsense in it now and then, does not misbecome a monarch.
  • Whenever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense.
  • My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 560.
  • He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
    Of the skin he made him mittens,
    Made them with the fur side inside,
    Made them with the skin side outside.
    He, to get the warm side inside,
    Put the inside skin side outside;
    He, to get the cold side outside,
    Put the warm side fur side inside.
    That's why he put the fur side inside,
    Why he put the skin side outside,
    Why he turned them inside outside.
    • Given as Anon. in Carolyn Wells, Parody Anthology, p. 120.
  • When Bryan O'Lynn had no shirt to put on,
    He took him a sheep skin to make him a' one.
    "With the skinny side out, and the wooly side in,
    'Twill be warm and convanient," said Bryan O'Lynn.
    • Old Irish Song.
  • For blocks are better cleft with wedges,
    Than tools of sharp or subtle edges,
    And dullest nonsense has been found
    By some to be the most profound.
  • To varnish nonsense with the charms of sound.
  • Conductor, when you receive a fare,
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare.
    A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
    A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
    A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
  • Chorus
    Punch, brothers! punch with care!
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
    • Mark Twain, Punch, Brothers, Punch. Used in Literary Nightmare. Notice posted in a car and discovered by Mark Twain. Changed into the above jingle, which became popular, by Isaac Bromley and others. See Albert Bigelow Paine, Biography of Mark Twain.
  • Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem:
    Dulce est desipere in loco.
    • Mingle a little folly with your wisdom; a little nonsense now and then is pleasant.
    • Horace, Carmina, IV. 12. 27.
  • How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!
    Who has written such volumes of stuff!
    Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
    But a few think him pleasant enough.
  • No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the misfortune is to do it solemnly.
  • There's a skin without and a skin within,
    A covering skin and a lining skin,
    But the skin within is the skin without
    Doubled and carried complete throughout.
    • Power of Atherstone.
  • From the Squirrel skin Marcosset
    Made some mittens for our hero.
    Mittens with the fur-side inside,
    With the fur side next his fingers
    So's to keep the hand warm inside.
    • G. Strong ("Marc Antony Henderson"); Song of the Milgenwater, Parody of Hiawatha.
  • A careless song, with a little nonsense in it now and then, does not misbecome a monarch.


  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
    • Nonsensical pseudo-Latin text traditionally used for demonstrating typography and layout. Origin of modern use is unknown. The text derives from chopped up words and phrases from Cicero's De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum ("On the Ends of Goods and Evils", also known as "The Purposes of Good and Evil".) More at Wikipedia.
  • One bright day, in the middle of the night, two dead boys began to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A deaf policemen heard the noise, and came to save the two dead boys. If you don't believe me, well it's true, ask the blind man: he saw it all too.

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