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HD: 1937 Words
Posted: 13 October 2011 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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We can’t have a dictionary cluttered by the many critters imagined by sci-fi and fantasy authors, filled to the gills with kirinki and Dentrassis and judoons.

True, but we’re not talking about kirinki or judoons (which aren’t in the OED); so that’s a straw man.

The Hobbit and LOTR are major works, widely referenced in media and not just in the narrow confines of fantasy fandom. The books (and movies) are cultural icons. Plus, remember that the OED is also being written for future generations, when Tolkien may very well be less popular and not well read, but people may keep finding references to hobbits in late-twentieth-century writing and wonder what the heck the word is and whether or not Tolkien invented it or whether it is a creature out of folklore.

In addition, hobbit is a productive word, generating hobbitry (which IIRC is actually used in LOTR), hobbitish, and hobbitomane (a devotee of hobbits).

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Posted: 13 October 2011 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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True, but we’re not talking about kirinki or judoons (which aren’t in the OED); so that’s a straw man.
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I don’t agree that it is a straw man: to say so suggests you miss my point. Their absence is crucial to my point. I am saying it is appropriate that kirinki and judoons aren’t in the dictionary because their use did not broaden, whereas that of hobbits and babelfish did.

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Posted: 14 October 2011 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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The First Edition has quite a few hapax legomena used in passing by a single author, which the lexicographers felt compelled to try to explain.  Opinions may differ on the value of this, but it’s not something that started with Tolkien.

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Posted: 14 October 2011 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Not a fan of slippery slope arguments but obviously there’d be a bit of subjectivity, a bit of a grey area, between kirinki and hobbit, e.g. wookies, Vulcans (in the ST sense).

BTW, strike a light ... etymonline tells me that the term hobbit was used by folklorist Michael Aislabie Denham in the 19th century, in a list of mythical critters.

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Posted: 14 October 2011 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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A check of Google Books turns up some 280 hits prior to 1900. Many, if not most, seem to a use of hobbit as the name for a Welsh unit of measure, equivalent to 2.5 bushels. (There’s a Wikipedia entry, too.)

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Posted: 14 October 2011 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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It also appears to be a human name (there’s a legal case of Hobbit v London), but it’s clear enough Denham meant some kind of elf, fairy or some such.

I suppose the main possibilities are

a) that Denham and JRRT each came up with hobbit independently, possibly deriving as a diminutive from Hob = elf
b) that JRRT saw Denham’s list (JRRT claimed to have made up the word but he may have simply misremembered. It would be easy to go through a long list like that and later think of a word and not remember specifically where you’d encountered it.)
or c) JRRT got the word from some source other than Denham.

Thanks for the tip on Google Books: isn’t this a wonderful time to be alive?  I looked at literally all the entries. Apart from the units of weight and proper names, there are a number of cases where the GB character recognition has failed (e.g. for bobbit, or for hobby, or Hobbii, which is a Latin adjective meaning pertaining to Hobbes, I suppose). There’s one case where it is used as a pronunciation guide for Hobit in an English-German dictionary (hobit, apparently, means “feuermorsar”, fire mortar.

There is one entry that baffles me.

The Port folio: Volume 6 - Page 157 By Joseph Dennie, John Elihu Hall
she gave us a very hearty welcome, for Blyth was she but an’ ben, and when She came ben she hobbit, and introduced us to Maggy Lauder

Possibly it means “hobbled” but the letters on the page are clear enough as “hobbit”.

Early popular poetry of Scotland and the northern border: Volume 2 David Laing, William Carew Hazlitt has a glossary which includes “Hobbit schone, clouted shoes”. Schone was a common word for shoes in Scotland. Not sure what to make of this use of hobbit but there would be no reason to think it would be connected to the magical world of little people.

Apart from that, bupkis. so Google Books doesn’t contain a reference to hobbit meaning a small mythical humanoid prior to 1900.

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Posted: 17 October 2011 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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OP Tipping - 14 October 2011 04:30 PM

Early popular poetry of Scotland and the northern border: Volume 2 David Laing, William Carew Hazlitt has a glossary which includes “Hobbit schone, clouted shoes”. Schone was a common word for shoes in Scotland. Not sure what to make of this use of hobbit but there would be no reason to think it would be connected to the magical world of little people.

We’d likely call these hobnailed boots.  (Have no fear; that’s just a Wikipedia link TinyURL’d due to ExpressionEngine’s disdain for links ending in parentheses.)

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Posted: 17 October 2011 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I agree.  The substitution of -it for -ed in Scottish English is common (e.g. “May the Lord be thankit.") and the OED records “hobbed” referring to shoes “furnish[ed] with hobnails.” So “hobbit schone” = “hobbed shoes” and would have nothing to do with Tolkien’s hobbits, who for the most part wore no shoes anyway.

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