“BEGIN at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

It is such good advice that it is impossible to ignore, so, to begin with, on Tuesday, I attended the opening of Mischmasch, a whimsical wonderland at Rockliffe Hall in Hurworth. It’s a delightful children’s playground of slides, water spouts and secret huts, inspired by Lewis Carroll, that is available for people using the hotel.

Of course, Carroll’s childhood was spent at nearby Croft-on-Tees, where his father was rector for 22 years, and many of his whimsical ideas are based in the lore of this area.

So at the end of the evening, I stopped, having eaten my fill in the new glasshouse, and I left wondering why they'd called it “mischmasch”?

Mischmasch is a northern European word – German, Swedish and Danish languages all have similar sounding and meaning words. It may come from “mash”, which is the mixture of ground malt and hot water used in brewing; it may have an element of “misc”, which is an abbreviation for “miscellany”, a collection of various things.

A mischmasch is lower grade than a miscellany: it is, according to the dictionary, “a confused mixture; a medley, hotchpotch, or jumble; a muddle”. TS Eliot, a big fan of Carroll, wrote of “chaotic misch-masch pot-pourri”.

For Carroll, the Mischmasch was a scrapbook of ideas, jottings and puzzles that he and his siblings compiled between 1855 and 1862 in Croft Rectory.

He obviously loved the feel of the word on his tongue because in 1882 he returned to it and used it for the name of a two-player word game. Player one put down two or more letters and player two had to use them in a lawful word. For instance, player one’s “gp” could become a “magpie” and score points for player two.

Scrabble, invented in 1938, has outlived Mischmasch the game, but Mischmasch the scrapbook has an enduring place in literature because it was in Mischmasch that in 1855, Carroll wrote the most famous verse of nonsense in the English language. He called it A Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry and it is the Lord’s Prayer of nonsense because everyone from childhood knows that is goes:

Twas bryllyg, and the slythy toves

Did gyre and gymble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves;

And the mome raths outgrabe.

MANY thanks for the kind comments about last week’s column which looked at Boris Johnson’s curious phrase concerning jots and tittles. A jot – or iota – is the smallest letter of the alphabet, which is an i. A tittle is the smallest mark a printer can make, which is the dot above the i.

Anna Rudd in Darlington recalls the phrase "tittle off" being used, at least in the Wingate area, during her childhood. It was a good natured instruction to "go away".

Of course, the correct response to being told to tittle off was: “I’ll be away in a jot.”

Was anyone else told to “tittle off”?

HEATWAVE? What heatwave? On July 15, 1868 – 150 years ago this month – the Darlington & Stockton Times newspaper reported that in Darlington, the temperature peaked at 91 degrees. That’s about 33 degrees in Celsius terms, and we haven’t scorched to that level in the current heatwave in Darlington. Yet.