Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Tolkien's Use of Expletives

Author: Dreamflower
Nominator: Inkling
2006 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction - First Place

Story Type: Non-Fiction : Length: N/A
Rating: G -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: In which JRR Tolkien's use of various exclamations and expletives in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is examined, and a list compiled of those phrases.


Reviewed by: Mechtild -- Score: 9

Heavens to Betsy, and, [Great glory and splendour]! What a gratifying treat to read your essay. I came here trying to find out who you were. It's rather late in the day to read your fic for reviewing, Dreamflower, but I couldn't resist opening your essay when I saw it's title. Inappropriate use of language in Tolkien fic is one of my pet peeves, whether the author is using vocabulary that is alien to Tolkien because it is out of place, time, character, or literary mood. I mean, I'll still read a story that grabs me emotionally, even if the author insists on putting modern expletives in the mouths of the characters, or uses words Tolkien would *never* have used in the narrative voice. But I still cringe reading dialogue littered with phrases more appropriate to "Bridget Jones Diary", or a late-twentieth-century northern California group therapy session, than Tolkien's sub-creation. Each time, it yanks me out of the story, sending me into time-out for head-shakings and tut-tutting's, which stop the flow of the reading. But you say it better: ["By making use of the words he used, or, if using words or phrases not on the above list, attempting to keep the flavor of the expressions he used, one may keep a little closer to the style and spirit of JRRT himself. And it will help to keep one’s readers from being jolted out of Arda and being unexpectedly dropped back into our own world."] *standing ovation* Thank you for a thoroughly enjoying little essay, and a helpful one, too, since you provided that handy-dandy annotated list.

Reviewed by: pippinfan88 -- Score: 9

I just love Dreamflower''s Essay Series on Lord Of The Rings! I not only appreciate the work of love she pours into each subject, but I also look at the views of other readers and their ideas. Normally, I don't read other readers' reviews, but in this series I do for the aforementioned reason. In this particular essay of expletives, Dreamflower states her observances of oaths used by hobbits in stories that she had read in the fandom. Her views are fact-based and she doesn't condemn. She does try to illuminate the spirit in which JRR Tolkien wrote his beautiful epic. I wholly share her views and why, lol, even though I used to be a guilty party years ago. I had come to the realization that the good Professor wrote his hobbit-characters with a large enough vocabulary that expleteives weren't necessary. In addition, I think his hobbits are characterized as child-like, which, to me, means that use of those "bad" words would not only tarn their character, but would not reflect the intelligence they are so well noted for. This essay is well worth the read if anyone is interested in writing in the spirit of Tolkien. I highly recommend it--and all of her other essays, too!

Reviewed by: stefaniab -- Score: 7

Dreamflower's extensive research is eye opening and very useful for those of us who write fan fiction, especially writers who adapt the Professor's prose style. This research also gives us an interesting perspective on Tolkien's personal ethics. Tolkien's great religiousity has been written about extensively, as has his war service. I'm sure the Professor heard, and possibly uttered, profanities of all sorts at the Battle of the Somme. Yet Tolkien's characters make not a blasphemous or scatalogical peep at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Somehow, I can't imagine Aragorn not cursing under his breath at the Mouth of Sauron. And that's not even getting into Turin or Feanor or the range of violent First Agers. The lesson learned from "Tolkien's Use of Expletives" is, if you want to create imaginative expletives for your Tolkien-based characters, best label your work AU.Alas, Movieverse won't even do because it too seems free of modern cussing. Thanks for your pains-taking research, Dreamflower.

Reviewed by: Perelleth -- Score: 6

This is a most interesting, useful short essay. I do not usually read this kind of things, but the title caught my attention and then I read it with sheer delight. It made me consider a point I had never before thought about, and it borught to mind the importance of wording and style, as well as how the characters' voices have so much to do with their upbringing and their environment, as well as the historical moment. A real jewel, and a thought provoking essay, because the lack of use of expletives means too a very different culture and a very different approach to things than what we are used to in our modern times, and what most of our writing tends to show. A great idea, and a brilliant development, Dreamflower, I found it truly enlightening!

Reviewed by: Nienor Niniel -- Score: 6

This is quite useful writing resource. Fanon has developed a lot of exclamations that have to canonical foundation whatsoever, and I am always startled on seeing something as "Valar!", "Béma!", or worse, if writing this here is allowed, "Eru's balls!" The list also shows clearly that such expressions are more likely to be used by hobbits than by any other species. In fact, we see no mention that any Man ever uses any except "Alas!" In fanfic, the picture often is quite different. It is good that Dreamflower has undertaken the work of compiling this list of Middle-earth swearwords. I, for one, will make use of it if I should ever write a story in which the character have to express their feelings in a somewhat stronger manner than usual. Many of the Hobbit exclamations are fairly unusual in today's speech, so it is good to have them all together in a handy list.

Reviewed by: Rhapsody -- Score: 6

What a delightful piece to read! Especially the usage of buttons by Bilbo made me wondering the same (so yes, I looked too and there is a lot of mentioning of that word in [the Hobbit]). It is very useful for writers who write a lot of the Lotr characters, but not so much for Silmarillon writers. Because there is a lot going on in the Silmarillion which could give a writer a different insight. One could say that once Fëanor curses Melkor (well there is a lot of cursing going on with the Fëanorians), you would have most likely the most used expletive (Morgoth) there. So, it would place this non-fictional work in a different spotlight especially when the author wants to advise on style use. But Dreamflower, this is a very useful work which will help a lot of writers with their writers. Great job!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 5

Excellent research (which surely must not have been *too* painful!) for excellent reasons. Although I am not put off by more intimate or casual styles of writing than Tolkien's own grand and epic tone, too modern a phrasing or modern words will easily jolt me right out of a story. As pointed out here, it is a matter of matching both Tolkien's characterizations and his societal/cultural structures. This is a very helpful - and entertaining - list even for those of us who are solely readers, as it assists in distinguishing between the ever blurry fanon and canon sources. Thank you very much for sharing this!

Reviewed by: Inkling -- Score: 4

I enjoyed this well-researched piece for several reasons. First off, it provides an interesting discussion of expletives, epithets, oaths, and invocations as used in LOTR. Secondly, it's a Very Useful reference tool for writing Tolkienesque dialogue, and now resides on my hard drive. And finally, all the expletives lined up like that make quite a funny list! For a real chuckle, try reading it aloud!

Reviewed by: elliska -- Score: 4

This is an outstanding essay. It must have been an amazing amount of work to go through the stories to find the 'terminology' Tolkien used. And this is so useful for those writers that want to keep the tone of their stories closer to canon. Even my friends that don't write enjoyed this essay because the analysis of the language was really interesting. Great job and thanks so much for doing this. Now if we could just get some of the people who have Arwen cursing like a sailor to read and appreciate it...

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 4

An excellent examination of the usage of expletives in "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings", as a reaction towards the over-usage of swearing by/in the name of the Valar and other modern uses of expletives in Tolkien fanfiction. The writer carefully examines both works for specific examples of expletives as a guide to the careful fanficker. An invaluable reference tool for Tolkien fanfiction writers, and an interesting essay.

Reviewed by: obsidianj -- Score: 4

This is a very helpful list of exclamations and words used by the characters of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It confirms my intuitive dislike of a lot of expletives used in fanfiction. Most of them don't feel 'right'. I will keep this list and will put it to good use when beta reading. I find it especially helpful to get some guidance in creating some new phrases but still keeping the spirit of the books.

Reviewed by: Gandalfs apprentice -- Score: 4

This essay made me laugh. You have indeed done an admirable job of cataloguing "oaths"; it ends up making Tolkien look charming and rather childish. I suppose it's because so many of these words are out of the mouths of Hobbits. It reminded me of Tyellas's "Lost in the Translation," where Bilbo confesses to Frodo that he "cleaned up" the tales of the Elves so as not to shock the respectable.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland -- Score: 4

This is an interesting and well thought out essay.I hope those who read it will take note as I hate reading fanfiction based on Lord of the Rings using swear words as it is so false to Tolkien's vision. The writer has compiled a list of what expressions are used and proved without doubt that Tolkien's characters do not blaspheme or use foul language.I turn to Tolkien's words with a sign of relief as one knows they are free of obsenities.I only wish all fanfiction were the same.

Reviewed by: Lindelea -- Score: 4

Dreamflower's non-fiction shows an attention to detail as well as genuine regard for the intricate world JRRT created. This story, for example, that examines JRRT's use of expletives in LOTR, is a wonderful tool for those who are aiming for an "authentic" voice in their fanfiction, one that reflects the style of the original whether out of respect for JRRT or as a personal challenge or whatever other reason one would choose to write in accordance with "canon".

Reviewed by: Erynhith -- Score: 4

What a really good idea to look through Hobbit and LOTR and see what the characters really said as exclamations. I think this will be particularly useful for those writing fanfic about hobbits who seem to have a lot to say on the subject, especially Samwise... This must have been a long, laborious task, and Dreamflower deserves our thanks for undertaking it on everyone's behalf.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 3

What a neat little resource! There are times when I want to come up with something shocking or even funny, but other times when I just want a little bit of mild swearing that own't jump out unduly at the reader. This article gives me some of the Professor's own, and I know I'll be using it in the future. Thanks for all the time you put into this.

Reviewed by: Dawn Felagund -- Score: 3

This was an ingenious idea and is a wonderful resource for fanfiction writers. It is common to see modern expletives used in fanfic, and this reference makes a compelling case against it, at the same time offering alternatives that allow writers to express their characters' wonderment or frustration in a canonical fashion. Thank you for compiling this!

Reviewed by: Elanor -- Score: 3

I keep a copy of this in my files and refer to it often. A very useful document and gratefully received! The only complaint one can possibly make is that Tolkien should have thought up a few more tricksy phrases to use in time of trouble! Some good advice on usage for genre writers, as well, which ought to be followed.

Reviewed by: Marigold -- Score: 3

The amount of research that Dreamflower put into this is impressive. We have become so used to reading and writing various expletives in fanfiction, many of which have become fanon at this point, and this is a very good reminder that to make our own stories sound more Tolkienesque that we should follow the lead of the books when it comes to our word choices.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 2

A very thoughtful study and discussion of how the Master avoided using expletives in his writing, making it more accessible and pleasant in so doing.

Reviewed by: Jenn_Calaelen -- Score: 1

An interesting start, but seems to lack any depth of analysis.