AMONG this column's more lamentable failings is an almost complete inability to tell its Carroll from its Lear, its Jabberwocky from its Jumblies.

It was the Jabberwock, for example, which came whiffling through the tulgey wood and burbled as it came.

It was the Jumblies - not further to be confused with the Bumblies, Mr Michael Bentine's fondly remembered creation from the early days of BBC Television - whose heads were green and whose hands were blue and who went to sea in a sieve.

Lewis Carroll was famously Rector of Croft-on-Tees. Edward Lear wasn't. Lear lived from 1812-88 and Carroll from 1832-98, though who may have plagiarised whom, and who had the old man with a beard who said it was worse than he feared, it is quite impossible to say.

We are driven to such absurdities by David Armstrong in Redcar who, perhaps knowing Gadfly's little weakness, recalls the nonsense rhymes passed down through generations of his family.

"One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead men got up to fight;

They stood back to back and faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other."

Or, equally familiar in the dear, distant playground of Timothy Hackworth Juniors:

"Last night I went to the pictures, and took a front seat at the back,

A lady she gave me some chocolate; I ate it and gave it her back."

Readers may wish to share favourites of their own - as the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham first observed, nonsense on stilts.

PERHAPS we aren't alone in becoming all jumblied up. Readers are therefore invited to consider, preferably without recourse to Chambers Dictionary of Quotations, who wrote of the following. Five are Parson Carroll's creations, the others the perfectly spherical Mr Lear's.

The dong with a luminous nose, the Snark, the Elephant (that practised on a fife), the old person of Ware (who rode on the back of a bear), Old Foss, the Gryphon; Humpty Dumpty, cabbages and kings, the Akond of Swat, the owl and the pussy cat.

Ten correct - sublime nonsense; 8 or 9 - nonsensible; 6 or 7 - non sequitur; 5 or fewer - too clever by half. The answers near the foot of the column, or in the trulgey wood, or wherever.

QUESTION time isn't yet over: we return to the subject of howking and particularly - back to the roots - of howking taties and tungies and the like.

"Tungie", last week's column revealed, is a Hartlepool term for a turnip - hence (per Mr Ron Hails) the somewhat pejorative term "tungie heed", meaning round-headed.

"I'm so grateful," writes a Middlesbrough reader who seeks anonymity. "Many years ago at British Steel there was an apprentice who everyone knew as Tungie Heed. Until now, I've never known why."

Ian Andrew in Lanchester sends two pages of the Durham and Tyneside Dialect Survey of 2001, prepared by Billy Griffiths in Seaham, in which "howk" is found to mean both "to scoop or hollow out" - as in "howk your powk", which probably needs no explanation - and "give a good hiding".

Many of the other entries on those two pages are said to be unheard of on Teesside but dialectically hanging on elsewhere. Tees folk and others may care, therefore to define the following:

1. Hoggers

2. Hoy

3. Jarping (the world championships of which will be held in Peterlee Cricket Club at Easter)

4. Kite

5. Keek

Answers to that one at the column foot, an' all.

SEVERAL readers continue the debate over swedes and turnips, and which is fed to what or whom. "If swedes are grown mainly for cattle fodder, then most supermarkets are selling them for human consumption," writes Pete Winstanley from Kimblesworth Grange, Chester-le-Street.

Elizabeth Steele in Staindrop recalls her Scottish childhood when whole families would alight at Rothesay pier for the October tattie howking. "Maw, paw and the weans would live in byres or tents to save money."

Elizabeth also recalls a trip to Alabama, in America's deep South, where they ate "turnip greens with grease" - "soggy, hairy, peppery taste, swamped with good ol' bacon fat and served with sausage patties and grits."

After that she understood fully, adds Elizabeth, why farmers feed them to sheep.

LAST week's column also reported a letter from Mr John Fraser Maughan in Newcastle - where doubtless, we suggested, he answers to Maffen.

It prompted from Ian Forsyth in Durham not just the recollection of military Maughans leaving pay parade empty-handed but a scholarly* exposition of why it is so.

The column's venerable friend Johnny Maughan, still toddling down to Tow Law workmen's club so they reckon, is among those who insists that - having always answered to "Maffen" - he failed to recognise the name "Morn" in the Army.

Ian draws attention to words like "laugh", haugh ("flat land on a river bend," like Derwenthaugh) and "braugham" (a horse collar), all of which have "Co Durham" pronunciation.

Otherwise the "gh" is silent, as in Auberon Waugh.

* "Scholarly" is, in itself, an academic term, meaning "perplexing".

Gaffer, though not a North-East original anyway, was at first a term of respect for an old man. The feminine equivalent (not many people know this) was gammer.

What, though, of grandfather, asks Norman Coleby in Middlesbrough? Peter Mullen's column recently used the spelling "granddad", though Clive Dunn - No. 1 in November 1970 - preferred "Grandad". Since the year 2000, the Echo has used "grandad" 93 times and "granddad" just 39. Chambers Dictionary offers both. Though not yet visited by grandchildren, this old hand prefers the latter.

NO excuses, though, for the well-read folk at South Tyneside Libraries whose leaflet appealing for volunteers promises that "benefit payments will not be effected". Much more to the point, they won't be affected, either.

CHAPTER and verse yet again, someone else forwards a piece by television funny man Ian Hislop from one of the broadsheets.

Hislop had been sent by "a well-known (female) novelist" the effusive literature for Durham's new library in Clayport, by which he possibly meant Claypath.

There's stuff about "tried and tested mediation and interpretation skills", surfing the net, brushing up on IT skills and of a "digital media suite".

Members can borrow videos or pieces of music, work in the informal study area with computers, peruse the latest in "electronic formats".

Hislop's novelist notices a strange thing, however. Amid all that extravagant writing, there's not a single reference to the four-letter word "book".

So finally back to the trulgey wood, which probably can't be seen for the trees. The first, fourth, fifth, ninth and tenth creations are Edward Lear's, the remainder Lewis Carroll's.

Hoggers are work shorts, to hoy is to throw, jarping is a familiar North-East pastime involving grievous bodily harm to paste eggs, kite (inexplicably) is Durham dialect for belly and keek for peep. Colliery overmen were once known as keekers.

There may be more of this nonsense, it is to be feared, next week.