Twenty-Two Words You Never Thought Tolkien Would Provide

Author: Darth Fingon

Nominator: Russandol

2009 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction - First Place

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: N/A

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: This article contains words pertaining to adult situations, and as such it may not be appropriate for children.

Summary: In his earliest wordlists, Tolkien was far less safe with the vocabulary he provided. Here are twenty-two canon Elvish words you never thought you'd see, covering a variety of topics from poverty to private parts.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

While some of the words on this list didn't surprise me all that much after all - I will never understand why people keep assuming that modern-day perceptions about "dirty" words (such as harmless anatomic terms) were always valid, especially as Tolkien took much of his inspiration from Anglo-Saxon stories that were not exactly known for their prudery, to name just one thing - others were very fascinating indeed. I do wonder where an Elvish word for "hermaphrodite" or "lawyer" would ever have come into use? ["Too bad we'll never know"] indeed. It would be too entertaining to read the texts those words were intended for! Either way I admire the effort and determination that must have gone into the research for this article, and I had a very amusing read even if it sparked a tiny little rant. Darth Fingon's linguistic articles are always good for a surprise or two, and this one was probably the most fascinating of the lot - whether or not I would have expected a few of the twenty-two words in question. Darth Fingon's snarky, tongue-in-cheek commentary is an additional joy, repeatedly making me snicker immaturely. Besides, it doubtlessly proves some of the more uptight (and often rather militant) fans wrong, and that alone is a very good thing!

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 10

I have Parma Eldalamberon 11 and 13 but not 12! As a student of Tolkien’s Elvish languages, that makes it very frustrating, especially when other ‘lambengolmor’ refer to something found in the Qenya Lexicon. So, I am grateful for Darth Fingon for providing this short list of some of the more interesting words that appear in QL, besides the Gnomish words, which I can readily look up. This essay is amusing on two levels: first is the list itself, and second, is Darth Fingon’s commentary. I especially enjoyed his commentary on "Bandoth Gwi". A very unfortunate homonym indeed! No doubt Vaire finds it amusing even if the Lord of Mandos does not. Darth Fingon is correct that not all these words are necessarily compatible with later Sindarin and Quenya, although some of them have been adapted into these languages. Some words were completely replaced (drog/norka became mul/mol) or changed their meanings entirely (“mis” was later translated as the adverbial particle “less”). This is what makes studying Tolkien’s evolving concepts of these two languages so interesting and fun, as well as frustrating. The Tolkien of the Qenya and Gnomish Lexicons was a much younger man, newly married and with a growing family, than the image of the staid Oxford don that most of us associate with the Professor. This list offers us a glimpse into the psyche of the creator of hobbits and balrogs that few of us are privileged to see. So thanks, Darth Fingon, for providing us with this glimpse.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

Most fanfic authors like to add the odd Elvish word to their story to make it feel more authentic, but few people go far beyond "adar" or "mae govannen". Not too surprising, because Tolkien never published complete language grammars and dictionaries to go with the wonderful world he created. Thankfully, he left tons of notes, out of which linguists and people who have spent many hours doing research and piecing bits together have produced courses and wordlists in Quenya and Sindarin, and even less common Middle-earth languages. So that with some (not trivial) effort we (average people) can even attempt to recreate what our favourite characters' would say, in their native language! But... there is always a nagging curiosity about certain words that we know exist in all languages. Surely someone who invented a greeting such as "the stars shine at the hour of our meeting" would not have thought of these other words as well, would he? This essay is not about words that you can place in your tale, the author is very clear about that, but it gives a surprising insight into Tolkien's mind by providing proof that, in his amazing attention to detail, or perhaps just for fun, had indeed thought of THOSE words. So as well as a very instructive reading, it is humorous to think of Elves, wondrous, immortal beings, speaking of certain things that we, mere mortals, have in common with them.... Thank you, Darth Fingon!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 8

All of Darth’s language articles are fascinating to me. I was so excited to see he is publishing them regularly on the Silmarillion Writers Guild. This one is particularly interesting to me. It’s hilarious in the sly way in which it smashes the common fanon of the ethereal elf, which does not take into account personal conflict, bodily functions or numerous social questions. Tolkien spent his entire life developing his languages. He worked on both the tale of The Silmarillion and the languages of Arda beginning as a young man and continuing until his death. He understood that the heart of building the characterization of any of the individuals of his created world is necessarily reflected in their languages. The ways in which they operate must be reflected in the grammatical structure and vocabulary of the language(s) they speak. Anyone who has lived in more than one culture or even simply used different languages realizes that concepts that may be important or even indispensable to one may not exist in another. In fact, the vocabulary to even discuss them may be lacking.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 5

When delving into the subtext of Tolkien's legendarium and the nature of its peoples for the purposes of fan fiction, the best clues are to be found in his languages, which were obviously the Oxford philologist's forté. In [Twenty-Two Words You Never Thought Tolkien Would Provide], Darth illustrates a wealth of such clues from Tolkien's Elvish languages and does so in his characteristic analytical manner (much appreciated by this analytical reader) coupled with humor. On a more serious note, when the battlecries of "Elves would *never* do that" are sounded, it would behoove those who assert that Elves are always ethereal beings or imply that the Firtborn are not in fact human to have a good hard look at this corpus of words.

Reviewed by: Esteliel  ✧  Score: 5

This might be one of the must fun linguistic essays I have ever read - I have been forced to take courses in linguistics and came away with a great dislike for the dryness of it all, yet ever since I began to read more deeply into Tolkien's work, I've begun to regret that. This essay shows just how much fun etymology can be, and how the sometimes unexpected results like the translation of [balfaug] are not only amusing, but often lead to further questions and insights into the culture the language is connected to. I'm especially grateful for my personal favourite [Hermaphrodite (G gwegwin 11-44)], which only supports my belief in intersexed elves. ;)

Reviewed by: Moreth  ✧  Score: 4

It really isn't often you find an erudite discussion on Tolkien's created languages that makes you laugh out loud. My hat off to Darth for providing it. The entertaining gloss makes for a most amusing read. One can only imagine why some of the words were invented (Well, for personal amusement, at a good guess!) but thankfully JRRT did provide them and now they are here for our enjoyment. And, of course, here there be plot bunnies - as you have never before imagined! You have been warned.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 4

This is the only linguistic essay that's ever made me giggle like an immature twelve-year old, as the author gives us a list of a number of words that many fanfiction authors thought the very proper Oxford don was too stodgy to invent. Perhaps he wasn't as stodgy as we thought, because there are a number of very 'improper' words here. One fact that I perhaps enjoyed more than I should have is the fact that there's both a 'proper' and a 'poetic' name for a certain male body part. Fun and clever and useful all at the same time.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 4

A delightful look at some unusual pieces of Elvish vocabulary. There is the quasi-proverbial 'sealed envelope', and then there is this, which provides the contents of said envelope (with some exceptions) along with tongue-in-cheek linguistic commentary. The last word does indeed take cake for unusual findings, even among such surprising things as poetical elvish reprotuctive anatomy, lawyers, and temples - who would have thought about hermaphrodites in Middle-earth?!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

This is a fun, yet useful, essay, especially for those who like to write Elf romances. A list of words that the average person would think the fuddy-duddy old professor to be too stuffy to provide. Apparently not. Just going down the list of words is funny, but in addition there are the author's humorous commentaries on most of the words. I giggled at most of them, but this one made me LOL: ["And, of course, it would be silly to have a word for poop but not for pee."] *snerk*

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

Darth Fingon serves up a list, with delightful and informative commentary, of the words for some of the less lofty aspects of Elven life created by Tolkien himself - interesting that JRRT did imagine a more visceral and gritty side of Quenya and Elven life, or enough of it that he came up with some Elvish vocabulary. Darth Fingon is a consummate linguist; and his erudition, and sense of humor, are in play here. Well written and researched.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 4

An absolutely delightful essay showing that many of our fannish receptions of Tolkien's Elves - especially the tendency to idealize them or see them as oddly asexual beings - is pretty ungrounded. Usually, language rules say that if they had a word for it, it was something that was important to them and occurred. Darth proves that very thing for a number of things here that fanon usually shuns from connecting with Tolkien's Elves. Great work!

Reviewed by: whitewave  ✧  Score: 3

Darth Fingon's monthly feature in the Silmarillion Writer's Guild newsletter is one of my favorites. He lays out the facts and data in such a way that they don't sound so intimidating, which they could, if you were to study them all by yourself. Reading this also gives me lots of plot bunnies (naughty and nice).

Reviewed by: Robinka  ✧  Score: 3

Useful, amusing and well written, Darth's essay offers a good dose of healthy giggles as well as an interesting take on some of the languages the Professor invented. Thanks, Darth, for a most entertaining read.

Reviewed by: Jedi Sapphire  ✧  Score: 3

This has a lot of words I never imagined I'd be reading in any LotR-related non-fiction, ever - and it's been a very long time since I giggled like I did over this list. I'm in awe of the research that must have gone into it!

Reviewed by: Faoiltierna  ✧  Score: 3

Well, how can you not enjoy this essay? Not just the words Tolkien provided, but the ones Darth Fingon used to describe and define them! This [hug- means 'to copulate'.] Yeah, I think I need to be a little more careful about who I offer hugs to! LOL!

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 3

Well, apparently the Elves were originally intended to be a good deal more lusty than Tolkien eventually described them! A wonderful lexicon to be aware of if you wish to indulge in writing a story a good deal more racy than what is described in LaCE! Thanks, friend!

Reviewed by: curiouswombat  ✧  Score: 3

Not only fascinating - but exactly the sort of reference work we all need. Well - a reference work that I find not only fun but useful, anyway! I wonder if anyone has ever used word number 1, down at the bottom there (an unintended pun... honestly), in a piece of fanfic?

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 2

That was both enlightening and entertaining. I'm bookmarking that for future use. Thanks.

Reviewed by: dapperscavenger  ✧  Score: 2

Well, all I can say is that you certainly know your audience! Those are exactly the kinds of words we want to know - and have a good giggle over, of course!

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 2

"Hug" means to copulate? Deary me. I need to edit my stories... Very interesting, especially that they presumably had lawyers!