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Old 10-26-2014, 06:34 AM   #1
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Question Gnomes and Fairies

Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but a side-question I had on The Book of Lost Tales Read-Through has produced what I already think deserves its own thread, because of a point brought up by Galadriel55.

First, what I wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
I also have another question to ponder, one that comes down to linguistic taste: how do you feel about the Book of Lost Tales terminology? And I don't mean the prose here (though that is far game to discuss); I'm thinking more of the vocabulary: the use of "fairies" as a synonym for "Elves," the use of "gnomes" at all. I get a huge kick out of Tombo the gong myself, though it does not "feel" very Middle-earth to me.
Then, Galadriel55:

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Once again, I can't comment very much on this having never read the book, but I have seen several such excerpts (thanks to you educated Downers ). The use of gnome and fairy really bugs me. It does not bring the right image to mind. Especially the word gnomes - Russian has adopted that word to refer to little people (like garden gnomes), and in LOTR the word is actually used to signify Dwarves. Gnom Gimli is a perfectly sound combination. Gnom Legolas makes me doubt my sanity. Each time I have to remind myself that gnomes are Elves, or at one point I think it referred specifically to the Noldor, but either way they are not Dwarves and are nothing like Dwarves (and each time I encounter that word first thing that comes to mind is something akin to Andvari, but also eager to make mischief and craft things like a LOTR Dwarf.).

And on top of that there's the common modern meaning of "gnomes" and "fairies" - a meaning significantly different from what it once used to be. On one hand the choice of name is a bad thing, since the modern image interferes with how the reader understands the character. But on the other hand, for careful readers it revives the idea that fairies and princesses and etc are not what Disney makes them out to be, but the lore behind them is much deeper (and quite different!). Seriously, though - have you never heard of a child saying "that can't be Cinderella, she doesn't have a blue dress"? The same goes for fairies. They don't have to be little winged sparkly things fluttering around, and people need a reminder of that.
Continuing the main thrust of the Gnomes/Fairies/How-do-you-like-them? discussion, part of the reason I brought it up in the first place is that, yes, the connotations of "gnomes" and "fairies" brings up the diminutive and the modern connotations. But... before The Lord of the Rings made its influence felt on the collective vocabulary, that's the way we felt about "Elves" too.

I suppose this can only come down to a "what-if" scenario, but although I've never reread the HoME to the extent of the LotR, I *have* read it (or parts of its earlier volumes, which are the relevant ones here) that I can slide between the normal meanings and the early-Tolkien meanings without too much difficult. Personally, I regret the loss of "gnomes" more than the loss of "fairies."


The second point I wanted to make, and the one that really pushed me into opening this as a separate thread is the note of translation. Galadriel55 says that Russian uses "gnom" to translate "dwarf," so my question is: do other translations do this?

(Actually, my first question was "what about the use of 'gnome' in The Hobbit, but in Googling that to catch the exact quote, I ended up discovering that the reason I couldn't remember it by heart is because I've never read it--it was only there in the first edition and second editions. It was revised for the third edition, contemporary with the LotR's second edition, but even so, 1966 is fairly late; The Hobbit had been out for nearly 30 years by then and had seen a few translations.

These translations include the Portuguese one, O Gnomo from 1962, published four years before the references to gnomes were removed from The Hobbit!

Here's Wikipedia's table of The Hobbit translations, whence comes my information. Interestingly, this translation would be replaced in 1995 by separate (Brazilian and Portugal-Portuguese) translations that would change O Gnomo to O Hobbit. Russian seems to be in the clear; the earliest translation noted on this list dates to the 1970s.

I'm curious. People of multi-linguicity help me out: does English have an absurd number of names for small, "faerie" creatures (Elves, Fairies, Dwarfs, Gnomes--and now Hobbits) that need to be translated, or is this a function of most languages? I'm especially curious about those which are farther from being cognate to English, ones that don't share as closely the same mythological roots.
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:42 AM   #2
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Oooh, now a whole thread for this! Thanks, Form!

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Continuing the main thrust of the Gnomes/Fairies/How-do-you-like-them? discussion, part of the reason I brought it up in the first place is that, yes, the connotations of "gnomes" and "fairies" brings up the diminutive and the modern connotations. But... before The Lord of the Rings made its influence felt on the collective vocabulary, that's the way we felt about "Elves" too.
True. I didn't really think about that, maybe because the use of Elves was less common in my English language sphere before I read LOTR, so I don't have any wrong associations there - actually, it's the opposite: when I encounter the word "elf" in the diminutive context, I have to remind myself that they aren't LOTR Elves. It also helps that the Russian translation uses the same word to refer to them, and the word "elf" isn't really used in the language in general.

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Originally Posted by Formy
I'm curious. People of multi-linguicity help me out: does English have an absurd number of names for small, "faerie" creatures (Elves, Fairies, Dwarfs, Gnomes--and now Hobbits) that need to be translated, or is this a function of most languages?
Well, firstly, once again - not all of these creatures are "etymologically" small. Some of them were just Disney-fied. And second, I think each culture has it's share of fairies and Mewlips, but they may not be used the same way in stories. Russian, specifically, leaves its grandmother's lore for children's stories. Beyond that, you don't really get fiction/fantasy involving these creatures. We didn't really have that much of a fantasy branch of our own for a while - the genre was mostly just ripped off western fantasy. And even now, the best Russian fantasy is semi-scifi. But still, in structure, our "fairies" is sort of similar to the Irish "fairies" - people/characters who can choose to sometimes appear in our world, who meddle with the world and with people's lives, who may be good or bad, and who may take on a variety of shapes. But even the children's stories modify a lot of the good characters to be small. The bad characters remain very elaborate.

Hmmm... now that I think about it, we didn't modify everyone. Characters that are more manlike remain more manlike. But as you climb deeper into superstition, you get less clear-cut descriptions and more tailoring to the story's needs (and since a lot of stories tend to use the role in the same way...). For example, a well-known spirit, the Domovoy, is the spirit of the house (dom=house). I don't know what his original size was supposed to be, but he was said to have lived either under the top step, or behind the oven (think of the big, Russian oven, which people sleep on for warmth), or in other corners of the house. It wouldn't make sense for him to be human sized, or even hobbit-sized, because he wouldn't fit, so I suppose there's no problem with depicting him as small. But stories tend to depict him as thoroughly good, without a second possibility. But traditionally the Domovye could be good or bad, could either help a family prosper or mess with their house at night if they didn't like them. Domovye could get angry at their houseowners and tangle their hair or spoil their milk or something. Or they could like them and help slean out the cobwebs on the far corners at night, or something of that sort. And that "independent" and changeable aspect of many characters is lost.

So, not to get too sidetracked with random lore, I would say that English doesn't have too many words - these words all had different meanings and applied to a vast array of different characters. But thank's first to bedtime stories and then to Disney, a lot of these creatures lost their original form and character.

Fun fact: Tolkien is quoted by the Online Etymology Dictionary on the word "fairy". I agree with him.
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Old 10-26-2014, 07:42 PM   #3
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Sorry about the double post, but it has just occurred to me to ask this now.

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
(Actually, my first question was "what about the use of 'gnome' in The Hobbit, but in Googling that to catch the exact quote, I ended up discovering that the reason I couldn't remember it by heart is because I've never read it--it was only there in the first edition and second editions. It was revised for the third edition, contemporary with the LotR's second edition, but even so, 1966 is fairly late; The Hobbit had been out for nearly 30 years by then and had seen a few translations.
I am a young and unlearned hobbit, and none of the texts I read (aside from those quoted on the Downs) used the word "gnomes". So for me, the issue is largely moot. On the other hand, you've seen the word in context in BOLT, and also in The Hobbit (from the first editions) - what do you think it adds to / takes away from the story? From your perspective, did the taking it out alter the feel of the story in any way?
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Old 10-26-2014, 09:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Sorry about the double post, but it has just occurred to me to ask this now.



I am a young and unlearned hobbit, and none of the texts I read (aside from those quoted on the Downs) used the word "gnomes". So for me, the issue is largely moot. On the other hand, you've seen the word in context in BOLT, and also in The Hobbit (from the first editions) - what do you think it adds to / takes away from the story? From your perspective, did the taking it out alter the feel of the story in any way?
I think that them being called 'gnomes' and then being renamed 'elves' establishes a very strong atmosphere about them. They are certainly mystical, or magical, beings, and where elves can sometimes be thought of as not magic, 'gnome' removes that idea.

Although we know that elves are magical in the universe, people picking up the books for the first time may get the wrong idea. 'Gnomes' were never spoken of in any final products, but by reading BOLT, you can see the evolution of them.
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Old 10-27-2014, 09:48 AM   #5
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In the Silmarillion it is recorded that Beor's people called the Elven-king Felagund Nóm, "Wisdom", and his people they called Nómin, "the Wise".

Okay Tolkien himself didn't publish this... but... well I think he was still going to have a version of 'gnome' one way or the other.

Take that Paracelsus!
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Old 10-27-2014, 02:40 PM   #6
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It seems quite possible that Paracellus borrowed gnome from Greek genomos meaning "earth-dweller"; therefore, it is equally likely that Tolkien eventually eschewed gnome for its Greek roots, referring instead to Elf (Elves), which are etymologically of Scandinavian/Germanic origin as are the dwarves in his cosmology.
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Old 10-27-2014, 07:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
On the other hand, you've seen the word in context in BOLT, and also in The Hobbit (from the first editions) - what do you think it adds to / takes away from the story? From your perspective, did the taking it out alter the feel of the story in any way?
I feel I should make sure to clarify that I did not grow up on a diet of the earlier editions--nothing but the Third and later in my formative years.

Even apart from "garden gnomes" (not something I have ever really encountered firsthand even then), I knew the word from one of the Oz books--the third one, maybe? I never read the entire L. Frank Baum series, just the few that were in our local library, and did not reread them to the extent that they were drilled into my head like a Tolkien book, but I did have the initial impression of them as small, unlovely, creatures--perhaps more similar to goblins than Elves.

That said, I like the word itself. (Good catch, by the way, Galin--without the "g" at the front, I'd never noticed the similarity in "Nóm"--Tolkien may have dropped the concept, but perhaps he hadn't quite done so without some regret.) The Grecian roots of the word work to my linguistic aesthetics, and I like the idea that there was a Common Speech word for "Noldo."

I don't know if I've been as clear I should be, so I'll put it on the record just in case: "the Gnomes" refered to the Noldor--who were the Noldoli in the Book of Lost Tales, but the term Gnome lasted past the change from Noldoli to Noldor by nearly two decades. "Gnomes" was not replaced by "Elves," but dropped, in the same way that "Fairies" was dropped as a synonym of "Elves"--but with a difference: All Gnomes (Noldor) were Elves (Eldar).

Actually, now that I think about it--even though I don't personally like the use of fairies (I'm indifferent there, whereas I genuinely miss Gnomes), I wonder if Tolkien impoverished himself potentially. If Gnomes=Noldor, and Elves=Eldar (RATHER than Quendi), Fairies could have been used to be the Common Speech/English equivalent of Quendi (the entire species).

I should pay closer attention to how Tolkien uses the two words in the BoLT as we read forward. Elves and Fairies are PROBABLY just straight-up synonyms, but I wonder if maybe there's a nuance. (Of course, Quendi subdivided into Eldar and Avari is a later, post-BoLT terminology, but there was a similar structure in the BoLT: the Elves who went to Kor and the "Ilkorins," the ones who did not).
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Old 10-29-2014, 09:12 PM   #8
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Gnome makes me smile because I was Sixer of the Gnomes in the Brownies back when God was a boy (or girl). But I have started reading BoLT today, and so far so, good. Once again, I am struck by just how well Christopher Tolkien writes. And by his rather dry sense of humour.
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Old 10-30-2014, 04:17 PM   #9
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Any author may use any word to describe any fantasy race. Tolkien dropped fairy as a synonym for elf because he felt that its use by Victorian fantasy writers, principally children’s writers, had somewhat spoiled the word.

Tolkien also refers to the use of fairies by Shakespeare and Michael Drayton in particular.

I remember as a child not distinguishing clearly fairy and angel, not noticing in particular that angels in pictures had bird wings while fairies had insect wings. But fairies might be diminutive or human-sized while elves were always diminutive in the books I read. Also fairies were generally female while elves were male. The word gnome was usually usually not clearly distinguished from elf. Santa Claus had as assistants elves and gnomes.

I of course gradually learned better.

So I don’t recall when I first read The Hobbit as a child being particularly surprised by Tolkien’s human-sized, wingless elves. I may have then imagined Tolkien’s elves as being taller than Tolkien’s hobbits but shorter than human beings. I don’t remember exactly.

Later I recall a talk with my father who knew of my enthusiasm for The Lord of the Rings and read Fellowship to understand it. He did not like the book at all, being put off by the constant appearance of little folk: hobbits and elves. I remember explaining to him that Tolkien’s Elves were human-sized, not small.

That Tolkien dropped the word fairy and the word fay after The Book of Lost Tales makes full sense to me. Tolkien knew that fairy was a corruption of French Faërie, meaning the realm of the fées. And the French feminine noun fée came from the Latin word fata, taken as a feminine noun although it was in fact the neuter plural of the Latin word fatum, past participle of the infinitive fari ‘to speak’ meaning ‘thing spoken, decision, decree’ and used to mean ‘prophetic declaration, prediction’, hence ‘destiny, fate’. Better to use the Germanic word elf which is not known to be a corruption of a corruption.

Still, Tolkien’s word quendi for the original name of the Elves was said by him to mean ‘speakers’ which may reflect the genuine etymology of fée.

Gnome
is even better dropped, in my opinion, as gnome is a known invented word of Paracelsus and is used in fairy tales and common use mostly for beings of the Dwarf type, hence the use of gnom for Dwarf in the Russian translations. See https://www.google.cca/search?q=gnom...w=1200&bih=740 .

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Old 10-30-2014, 05:02 PM   #10
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Still, Tolkien’s word quendi for the original name of the Elves was said by him to mean ‘speakers’ which may reflect the genuine etymology of [I]fée.
Possibly, but it's a pretty logical thing to have a name that reflects the ability to speak. If you are the first species that can speak and understand that it's the first species that can speak, I see no reason for them not to boast the fact. As a real-life example, one of the two main theories for the origins of the root slav, slavyane is slovo: word, so slavyane are people who speak with words (Wikipedia has a nice page about it, but sadly I don't think this one has an English version). Surely Quendi are no worse.
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Old 10-30-2014, 09:25 PM   #11
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I agree with you. I posted only that quendi “may reflect the genuine etymology of fée.” The word may was very intentional.

A somewhat imperfect English translation of your link is available at http://translate.google.ca/translate...BD&prev=search . Thanks for providing the link. It has more information than the English version of Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavs#D...he_early_Slavs .

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Old 11-01-2014, 08:33 AM   #12
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Interesting thread!

So I have this theory that names and words in fiction -- especially fantasy and sci-fi -- are far more important to the overall effect of the fiction than is generally recognized. Take J.K. Rowling. My theory is that her most prodigious gift, and her most important talent in terms of accounting for her outrageous success, is her Dickensian flair for names. Muggle. Hogwarts. Dumbledore. Severus Snape. The list goes on and on (and on). Names have power. There is nothing quite like the perfect name for a thing. A Christmas Carol is a great story, but I wonder if it would be as enduring without those names. Ebenezer Scrooge. Likewise Sherlock Holmes.

I think the most important word in Tolkien is probably hobbit. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Great word. It's most readers' introduction to the professor and Middle-earth. If it were The Gnome ("In a hole in the ground there lived a gnome."), I don't know, man. There is strong magic in the exact right word.

"Gnome" to me conjures a much different set of associations than "elf". Garden gnomes have been with us for quite some time apparently, per Wikipedia. That's probably the primary association there. "Elf" on the other hand has a more variable feel. Of course I grew up in the 70s so it's hard to say how much the Professor's elves had already impacted the associations connected with that word. Nowadays it's inextricably bound up with Tolkien-influence.

But for me, aesthetically, even "elf" I'm not wild about. I've always had a bit of a standoffish relationship with elves, but it never occurred to me to wonder if maybe it was simply because they were called elves.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:41 AM   #13
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So I have this theory that names and words in fiction -- especially fantasy and sci-fi -- are far more important to the overall effect of the fiction than is generally recognized. Take J.K. Rowling. My theory is that her most prodigious gift, and her most important talent in terms of accounting for her outrageous success, is her Dickensian flair for names. Muggle. Hogwarts. Dumbledore. Severus Snape.
I agree, though I think Rowling has a tendency toward spoilers with the names (d'ya think a guy named Lupin might have something to do with wolves, or Sirius could be connected with dogs? ).

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I think the most important word in Tolkien is probably hobbit. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Great word. It's most readers' introduction to the professor and Middle-earth. If it were The Gnome ("In a hole in the ground there lived a gnome."), I don't know, man. There is strong magic in the exact right word.
When I think on it, hobbit has been known to be for so long that it's merely another word. I can't conceive of how those reading about Bilbo when that book was first released might have taken it. I've read ideas that it conjures in a child's mind rabbit, reinforced by the fact that Bilbo lives in a hole, but I don't recall ever thinking that.

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"Gnome" to me conjures a much different set of associations than "elf". Garden gnomes have been with us for quite some time apparently, per Wikipedia. That's probably the primary association there. "Elf" on the other hand has a more variable feel. Of course I grew up in the 70s so it's hard to say how much the Professor's elves had already impacted the associations connected with that word. Nowadays it's inextricably bound up with Tolkien-influence.
Gnome I will admit, now is even more tainted than before thanks to advertising. However, I can see Gil-galad handing out brochures with coupons to Aldarion to give to his countrymen.
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Old 11-01-2014, 05:34 PM   #14
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I agree, though I think Rowling has a tendency toward spoilers with the names (d'ya think a guy named Lupin might have something to do with wolves, or Sirius could be connected with dogs? ).
Not to mention Fenrir Greyback (with a first name like Fenrir, he more or less HAS to be the chief werewolf) Or Xenophilias Lovegood, he had to be a collector of curiosities (Xenophilias, "Love of the Strange/Foreign")
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Old 11-02-2014, 09:06 AM   #15
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Not to mention Fenrir Greyback (with a first name like Fenrir, he more or less HAS to be the chief werewolf) Or Xenophilias Lovegood, he had to be a collector of curiosities (Xenophilias, "Love of the Strange/Foreign")
Not to mention Professor Sprout.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:29 AM   #16
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Not to mention Professor Sprout.

And Professor Vector, the Arithmancy teacher. We can do this all day.

Tolkien's names are descriptive enough of their subjects, at times; Gandalf, Celeborn, and Fëanor come to mind. He avoided obvious plot-spoilers though, and that was probably helped by the fact that the origins of the names would mean little to a reader not acquainted with Tolkien's linguistic prowess, he having taken the names from either obscure (to modern readers) historical, real-world languages, or his own invented tongues.

Tolkien was, by his own admission, a bit chafed by the fact that such words as "gnome" and "fairy" had been co-opted by what he considered childish and unworthy literary works, but he was stuck with the realization that no matter how he tried to distinguish his gifted, immortal Eldar from fairy-tale elves, calling them gnomes was ultimately not going to pull the public away from pre-conceived notions of them.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:31 AM   #17
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I have always been a no-spoilers kinda guy, but I must say over the years I've seen the commonly understood definition of a spoiler creep to almost absurd lengths. The color of the new Batman costume, for an example I've seen debated, is decidedly not what I'd consider a spoiler.

To the matter at hand, Rowling, after all, wants you to connect Sirius to the black dog that seems to be haunting Harry. I don't think Lupin's lycanthropy is a huge twist or anything -- it's more like: What is Snape up to and is he responsible somehow? Besides, she probably made a reasonable assumption that a fair portion of her audience would lack the grounding to make the connections in many of those cases. In the parlance of our times, they're more easter eggs than spoilers, methinks. But, you know, your mileage may vary.

I didn't really mean to spark a debate on the finer points of Rowling, but those points do speak to this question of the names of things, the vocabulary employed. Raiding and tweaking ancient or unfamiliar (to the presumed audience) languages and traditions is a time-honored method for inventing names, one that is often preferable to pure invention. We've all suffered through the apostrophe-laden creations of lesser sci-fi and fantasy writers. Sometimes a familiar word or name that's employed in a new context is spot on -- when Lucas made force into The Force, he tapped a deep vein.

Tolkien obviously borrowed names liberally. For me one of the things that makes it work is that we are given to understand that elf or dwarf are rough English translations for the real word. The old translator conceit, cover for many sins. Still, I think if Tolkien could have had it back, he would've renamed the old trio of Bert, Tom, and William, arguably the most discordant naming element in the Legendarium.

EDIT: Whoops, cross-posted with Inzila.
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Old 11-02-2014, 06:45 PM   #18
Alfirin
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Quick Borrowing story from my childhood

When I was a kid I had a copy of an odd little pop-up book called "The Dwindling Party" , a present from a cousin who worked in Publishing (and who was unaware, that, regardless of formal, any book written by Edward Gorey is not exactly a kids book)

Anyhow The opening lines of the book are as follows

"A family once, by the name of McFizzit;
A mother, a father, six children in all;
Put on their best clothing, and went out the visit
The varied diversions of Hickyacket Hall"

The book then follows the family members as they are one by one abducted, eaten etc. by the varios monsters at the hall until only one is left."

The point is as follows, some years later I realized the name of the hall was a clue to what was going to happen (in my defense, I never learned Latin" There's no "k" in classic Latin and the "C" are always hard. And "Y" becomes "I" so the name then would become "HicIacet" or "Hic Iacet", "Here Lies" as in ("Hic Iacet Arturus Regina Temus Regina Mors.")
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Old 11-02-2014, 07:33 PM   #19
Tar-Jêx
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Tolkien

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post


Gnome I will admit, now is even more tainted than before thanks to advertising. However, I can see Gil-galad handing out brochures with coupons to Aldarion to give to his countrymen.
Sounds like the next Air New-Zealand commercial.
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Old 11-04-2014, 12:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
There's no "k" in classic Latin And "Y" becomes "I" so the name then would become "HicIacet" or "Hic Iacet" …
The letter K was used in Old Latin and survived in Classic Latin in the word kalendae, after the 5th century B.C.E., which referred to the first day of each month, and in the praenomen Kaeso, used by the Julian clan. The word and name were both abbreviated as K. Accordingly K remains as a letter in standard Latin, though used seldom.

Y was in origin the Greek letter upsilon ‘plain y’ (Υ) which was originally pronounced in Greek as [u] but later pronounced as [i] but with the lips rounded, like u in modern French and ü in German. The Romans used this letter only when borrowing Greek words and names. Since the Greek sound was not a native Latin sound, the letter was generally pronounced as [i] in late Latin and in Romance languages.

Gorey’s use of the name Hickyacket is an intentional modernized misspelling of Hic iacet, replacing i with y and c with ck.

The supposed quotation Hic Iacet Arturus Regina Temus Regina Mors makes no sense to me. I think the intended quotation is the famous Hic Iacet Arturus, Rex quondam, Rexque futurus to be translated something like “Here lies Arthur, former king, and king to be”.
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Old 11-04-2014, 06:29 PM   #21
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Yes, was quoting from memory, memory failed (as I said, I never learned Latin)
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Old 11-08-2014, 03:30 AM   #22
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On the main point of this thread, the use of gnome as a name for the Noldor, a particular kind of elf, this does not work with Paracelsus’s meaning in which gnomes are supernatural entities who, in modern sf terms, phase though solid matter.

Paracelsus first wrote about gnomes in his paper On Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies, and Salamanders, which I do not find on the web. But see this short article on Paracelsus’s invention: http://blog.inkyfool.com/2010/12/par...d-rape-of.html . Paracelsus describes his gnomes as appearing as pygmies, about one foot high. Paracelsus was apparently influenced by Germanic traditions about Dwarfs. Subsequent writers of children’s fantasy accordingly sometimes used the word gnome for magical creatures of the dwarf type.

Tolkien appears to have been the only writer to use gnome to refer to handsome, human-sized elven folk and to have related Paracelsus’s gnome with Greek gnōmē, ‘saying, thought’. Gnomic poems are poems of moral maxims and have nothing to do with the supernatural creation of Paracelsus. They have existed and were so classified long before Paracelsus wrote. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnomic_poetry . Paracelsus possibly misspelled Greek genomos ‘earth-dweller’ to create the word gnomus.

Considering this, Tolkien was, I think wise to drop his idiosyncratic use of gnome to refer to the Noldor. There is no genuine folklore tradition behind this use of gnome. It is best ignored, as Tolkien decided to do, beyond his imagining the word Nóm ‘Wisdom’ as a name given by Beornians in their own language to King Felagund and Nómin ‘the Wise’ as their name for Felagund’s people, which Galen has already indicated.

Another Paracelsian word is sylph, which he uses to describe a wind or air elemental. Sylphs appear in Tolkien’s the Book of Lost Tales, page 66, among the divine followers of Manwë and Varda. Tolkien writes (emphasis mine):
… and these are the Mánir and the Súruli, the sylphs of the airs and of the winds.
Sylph may derive from Greek silphe ‘butterfly, moth’.

Last edited by jallanite; 11-08-2014 at 04:44 PM.
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