|Frontispiece of Through the Looking-Glass|
Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Dodgson, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. He was also a professional mathematician at Christ Church College at Oxford. Dodgson loved logic puzzles and word games, a love that is evident to anyone who has read the Alice books. So it's fitting that the very name "Lewis Carroll" is a form of wordplay—a kind which would have made sense to any mid-Victorian gentleman of Dodgson's day, but which now is a little arcane, because it runs through Latin.
Dodgson's full name was "Charles Lutwidge Dodgson." Taking just the two given names, he translated them into their Latin equivalents:
Carolus is the standard late-Latin for the name "Charles," which was originally French—as seen in the name of the emperor Charlemagne, who was, in Latin, styled Carolus Magnus ("Charles the Great"). Its Germanic equivalent became Carl/Karl, so that when Swedish botanist Carl von Linné published (in Latin) his work proposing a Latin taxonomic system for classifying all lifeforms (the Systema Naturae), he naturally translated his own name into Carolus Linnaeus—which is why we still call his taxonomic system Linnaean classification.
|Linnaean classification at work.|
Carolus Ludovicus, flipped around, became Ludovicus Carolus, and, with a bit of wordplay, finally Louis Carol = Lewis Carroll. Alice's family would have appreciated the game: the father of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired the Alice of the books, was an eminent Victorian classicist by the name of Henry Liddell. The elder Liddell was dean of Christ Church (Carroll's college), and assisted in compiling what is still the standard reference dictionary of the Greek language, the Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon. (The dictionary comes in three sizes—short, intermediate, and unabridged—which classicists nickname the Little Liddell, the Middle Liddell, and the Great Scott.)