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In the Case of the Stolen Grin 

Carroll did not invent the cat. 

A pyjama-skinned puss, technicolour in the trees,

Attempted to take the title for himself and the mouse,

But they were idle: 

You cannot tint a stolen identity in purple and simply grin. 

I, for one, am suspicious of grins.  

What are the facts of the case? 

Long before the sneaky duo slunk across the drawing board

In bold and dreamy protest of Sir Illustrator,     

There was a large Cat comprised of:

Good nature, and

Very long claws, and

A great many teeth, who was

Sitting on the hearth in a kitchen. 

Then, without a trace of lineage—

No tree, no certification, not even a single hair—

That wiggly valley of expression and

The way its corners extend to part the cave opening

Of pointed greetings, cheers, and riddles,

Was decreed to be:


A Duchess knows nothing of genetics.

As slight as words can be,

The grinning Cat became the pawn in the writers’ eternal game of reference.

Attempted coinage in broad daylight of pages,

It is as mad as a Dodo.

Though you racked up glory in tiny numbers, sixes and nines, 

The truth, Mr. Alice, reveals itself in a whisker before too long:

Bring forth the Cheshire painter!

She who turned inn walls into landscapes

Of grinning Lions, licking their lips of resin.  

Where is the Cheshire cheesemonger?

He who crafted dense and salty mounds into

calico forms with tasty smiles to win over the village crowds.

And we must not forget the kittens,

Tucked in the alleys, corners, and windowsills of Cheshire,

Lapping up milks and creams 

So fresh, so rich, and so luscious

That their pink mouths stretch out into the original grins.

These stories were the true origins of that simile

That propelled you into the Literary Hall of Clichés. 

But tonight,

Cheshirization betrays you, writer.

Just as two letters soften into silence,

And the Cheshire Cat melts away in some direction or another 

(“it doesn’t really matter, does it?”),

So will this figurative fabrication of invention. 

To All:

The next time you see a smile, 

Worthy of being branded like a certain Cat, 

I urge you to picture lion’s teeth, tails of cheese, and slurping kittens.

It is not Lewis Carroll who deserves your allusions,

The good people of the famed county 

Sit with loopy, grinning Cats on their mats. 


This poem is about the truth behind the phrase “grinning like a Cheshire cat”. Though you may immediately think it was coined by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, that is not the whole truth! Read on to learn about the origins.  

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