Discussions of Tolkien Language

Studies of the Written Tolkien Legacy: From Analysis, to Maps, to Philosophy and Ethics, to Philology
Gil
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Post by Gil » Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:14 pm

Somebody here pointed me towards "The Ring of Words - Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary", but I'm blowed if I can find the reference again.

I just wanted to say thank you to whoever it was!!!

The book is a joy and I'm happily browsing through the very long section on the etymology of Tolkien's own words.

I also discovered that another of my favourite, and IMO under-rated authors, Charlotte M. Yonge also edited parts of the OED!

Back to "precious", "wose", "eored" etc... :P

Merry
Varda
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Post by Merry » Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:00 am

Iolanthe and I met the authors of that book at Oxford, Gil, so we can take credit for calling the book to your attention. They gave presentations at the conference, but were around as students for most of the rest of it, and they were fun: they could come up with the etymology and first recorded use for just about any word anyone could come up with!

Riv Res just received her copy of the book this week, as did I, and I know Iolanthe bought it at the conference, so we might all discuss it here together.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

marbretherese
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Post by marbretherese » Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:10 pm

I also have a copy, which I bought in Oxford when I went there with Jonick and Iolanthe last Summer. I'd welcome a discussion!
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Sat Feb 23, 2008 8:16 pm

If you're interested you can find a report on their talk at the Exeter Oxford Tolkien Conference here Gil, along with photos. Their talk was very enjoyable and each of the three authors contributed something different:

Tolkien and the English Language: The Word as Leaf
Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner

I also found the book really fascinating, especially the origin of the words attercrop and Shelob, Beorn, and their detailed look at all the speculation on the origins of ''Hobbit' - just to name a few. I think the second half of the book sheds light on a lot of Tolkien's thinking.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Gil
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Post by Gil » Sun Feb 24, 2008 11:42 am

I started with JRRT at the OED and found that just as interesting. It raised lots of questions like "HOW do you research the uses of a word?" How would you know where to look????

Merry
Varda
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Post by Merry » Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:03 pm

A few years ago, I read a book about the beginnings of the OED--can't remember the title, something about a madman and the dictionary, which refers to the fact that an American physician who was locked up in an asylum in England was one of the biggest contributors to the original OED.

You see, the first dictionary researchers were volunteers! The man in charge, whose name I can't remember, decided to put the word out far and wide that they were going to write this dictionary, and asked for people who had access to old books to go through them and fill out a slip of paper on any words of note (and how one decided that, I'm not sure). The slip of paper included the word, its context, and the date of the publication of the book. The had a huge sort of quonset hut at Oxford with thousands of cubby holes where they sorted the entries, which came in from the whole English-speaking world. That's how they figured out the first recorded use, a unique feature of the OED.

The 'madman' in the title of the book was quite lucid during the day and suffered from wild hallucinations at night. After murdering a man during one such night, he was locked up for the rest of his life, and started looking for something meaningful to do during the day. Voila! The people in Oxford didn't know the identity of the poor doctor for a very long time.

At our Tolkien conference, I asked the authors of the 'Ring' book how many of the entries were revised each time, and they said virtually all of them. Most of the writers have specialties--I think one of the three specialized in scientific words--but they all took turns with common words. I asked if there were favorite and unfavorite letters. They said nobody wanted the 'u's, because all of the 'un-' words were boring to write. The all oohed and aahed over the letter 'q'! (At which point I got a fit of the giggles, feeling like I had found myself in an episode of Sesame Street!)
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

marbretherese
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Post by marbretherese » Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:16 am

In the last couple of years the BBC has aired a TV programme called "Balderdash & Piffle", which is based around updating entries in the OED. Basically it involves asking members of the general public to search their memories/attics/cupboards for the earliest recorded instances of words used in a specific sense. In some cases this has resulted in antedating existing entries by as much as forty years using such diverse sources as books, newspapers, football programmes, sheet music and 78rpm records. It 's interesting viewing & offers a fascinating insight into the mechanics of the OED!!

You can find out more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/wordhunt/

I confess to being a bit of a word-freak myself these days; it was a latent tendency which my renewed interest in Tolkien re-kindled!!
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Merry
Varda
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Post by Merry » Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:17 pm

That sounds like an interesting show, marbretherese!

I've started to read the Ring book, but I have to say that, so far, it's doing a great job of getting me to sleep at night. :oops: I've skipped to the word hoard, which is more interesting to me.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Merry
Varda
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Post by Merry » Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:45 am

Here's a new bit of information, at least to me. About the word 'flabbergastation':
In an early draft of 'A Long-expected Party' (LRI.i), this describes the reaction to Bilbo's announcement of his plan to get married (HME VI.15).
:shock:
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

marbretherese
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Post by marbretherese » Sat Mar 08, 2008 9:13 am

Bilbo planned to get married? :shock:

That's certainly flabbergasted me, Merry!! :D

I suppose it's not such a strange idea, its just that I'm used to thinking of Bilbo as a confirmed bachelor (you can probably tell I haven't got very far into HoME yet. I've decided to read it through from the beginning, a project which will take me years and years if I don't change my mind in the meantime!).

And "flabbergastation" is a wonderful word, isn't it? My Concise OED only mentions the word "flabbergasted", which is in current usage, although having checked the two mentions of "flabbergastation" in Ring of Words I find it's apparently listed in the full OED.

I love the idea that Tolkien couldn't resist including unusual words (making them up if necessary) in his writings. Once a lexicographer . . . :)
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Sat Mar 08, 2008 8:30 pm

Every now and then these early drafts throw a real blinder, don't they? It took me months to get used to the idea that King Elessar started out as Trotter the Hobbit. And today I was reading in Shippey that in the first draft of the opening chapters of FotR the first appearance of the Black Rider 'sniffing' for the Ring was going to turn out to be Gandalf :shock: .

Merry, I agree that the opening chapters of Ring of Words are more than a bit heavy going. After a while I became fascinated with the whole process of how the OED goes about its definitions but I must admit I was happier when I got to the second half!
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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