Sharpening a Spade

When the crew of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark is making preparations for seeking that impossible creature, we read that “the Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade”. This action is so outlandish that the editor and commentator (Martin Gardner) remarks ad locum: “Why in the world were they sharpening a spade?” (Gardner 2006: 44.)

Source: The Semantics and Semiotics of Sharpening a Spade: A possible Explanation of Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, Line 273; by Ezequiel Ferriol, 2017

Sharpening a spade is not outlandish. I saw farmers and gardeners doing that. Sharpening the spade before digging makes work easier. I think that Gardener simply asked what the Boots and the Broker wanted to do with a spade.

Quite probably the Boots and the Broker sharpened a spade because they were going to dig.