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Comments For Linguistic Foolery
I've found this list of 22 words very inspiring indeed! As someone who is intersex myself, I'm intrigued by the thought that Tolkien came up with a word for it, and wonder if he intended to use it in any way - the existence of the word itself seems to contradict what he says elsewhere about sex being an innate part of a person!
I do wish, however, that you had defined 'gwegwin' as 'intersex' rather than 'hermaphrodite' as, technically speaking, our species can't be actual hermaphrodites (as in, have two working sets of sexual organs at the same time), and, socially speaking, the term is considered misleading and offensive.
There are a wide variety of intersex conditions, and I would imagine that Elves, just like Men, could have any of them. But I wouldn't like to see stories out there where the concept of 'gwegwin' is used to justify mpreg or claim that Elves have two working sets of genitals or something - it feels too much like using the concept of intersex for titillation.
Obviously this was posted several years ago now, so I'm aware it probably won't be updated, but to anyone who is interested in writing about gwegwin and reading these comments - please do some research into intersex conditions at least before making stuff up for your fanfic.
Interesting list. It's noteworthy how all the raunchy words disappeared in the late lexicons, together with the not-so-Christian concepts. There's this entry from the Etymologies of the 30's though, just in case you want to add it (from Vinyar Tengwar 46: "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies part two":
YER- feel sexual desire. Q yere, N ir
Carrying on from Oshun's comment - it is really something quite central to the whole Silmarillion project, isn't it? Tolkien may have waited until quite late to invent a name for it, but the l-word characterizes what according to him was his primary impulse in devising Quenya and Sindarin and so of the whole mythology to go with it...
How true, and how very relevant. I'm glad and grateful that you beat some sense into those like me who sadly lack that lámatyávë. I just hope I may be able to develop it with time. I have added a new task to my " to do" list of all things Tolkien. A few hundred years would come useful to tick all the items off it...
I'm actually very excited that you wrote and published this essay the same month as I did my bio of Earendil, because one of my favorite citations from Tolkien about naming was used in writing about the name Earendil and is a lovely example of lámatyávë. He talks about liking the way the Anglo-Saxon word éarendel sounded: "euphonic to a peculiar degree in that pleasing but not 'delectable' language." I quoted way too much from the letter in which Tolkien discusses this particular name choice, and how pleasing he found it. But I felt somewhat justified when I read your essay.
Well, anyway, maybe I am kidding myself and was really just being a total self-indulgent geek too lazy to figure out what to cut. As usual, all that self-serving stuff aside, I really enjoyed your essay.
Very useful article. I learned a lot. And am happy it handy when I forget the points again.
Love the ending: "This does, however, look a bit stupid for fanfiction purposes, and will inevitably confuse and infuriate readers." Common never goes amiss when one is discussing the use of Elvish in fanfiction. If I were to start over again on some of the naming conventions I have adopted in my own stories . . . oh, well, whatever.
All the ë, ä, or ö does is remind non-native Elvish speakers (that is, all of us) using the Roman alphabet...
Can't help being a bit nitpicky here: While all of us are non-native Elvish speakers (or so I assume), not all non-native English speakers need the reminder. Several languages that use the Roman alphabet would habitually pronounce word-final "e" (as in Ainulindalë, Manwë, what have you) anyway, so the diaereses there wouldn't be strictly necessary. Some of them also wouldn't dream of pronouncing "ea" or "eo" as one sound, so again there actually would be no need for diaereses in the corresponding translations. Italian comes to mind; French would need word-final ë, but none of the rest.
Random anecdote: As a native speaker of German who had only ever read The Silmarillion in English, I used to write "Fëanor" and "Eönwë" and "Eärendil", as that was what I was used to - and was surprised that, even on the German Tolkien Society messageboard (i.e., where the academic hardcore fans are), no one else did. Figures that none of the diaereses made it into the German translation. Which makes perfect sense: ë isn't necessary, since native speakers of German would pronounce "Fëanor" and "Manwë" and all the rest correctly anyway (you don't want to hear how they mangle "Maedhros", though!). ä and ö, on the other hand, would actually lead them to pronounce the words wrongly, since in German these are used to represent entirely different sounds (the lovely Umlauts). The German translator was clever enough to remove the problem (unlike for instance the Finnish or Swedish translators, who kept "Eärendil" etc. even though their respective languages use ä for a sound different from [a]).
At any rate, the diaereses are a service (predominantly) for native speakers of English. Various other languages that also use Roman letters don't need them at all, or need only some.
That said: For English speakers, this is nonetheless a very helpful article, which hopefully helps to clear up some of the accent-based confusion. :)
Du hast Recht. ;) I will admit to and apologise for having written this from an Anglocentric perspective. Oddly enough, I had originally written that line about English speakers, but then changed it in what I can now see is a crappy attempt at being inclusive.
And I can imagine a German rendering of Maedhros. It wouldn't be as bad as my original assessment of Círdan, though, which came out all horrific and Italian and took months of dedication to correct when I read the name in my head.
While this installment was quite informative, I noted that you did not mention the field of medicine. Contrary to popular belief, it's hard to remain healthy in a society where the only health practitioners are midwives and midwives. And maybe midwives. People fail to note that Tolkien's elves, while not prone to illness, were also great craftsmen/women, and it's nigh impossible for, say, a blacksmith never to burn his hand. And of course there are simple accidents, such as breaking bones in a fall, and children, who regardless of race will always stick beads up their noses.
And for the love of Ilúvatar, let the doctors, and likely nurses and P.A.s and maybe even veterinarians be called such instead of the all-too-common "healer."
And you know, given all this opportunity for accidents, there may be a prosthetics industry...not to mention pharmacists...
Thanks for reviewing, and please forgive the lateness of my response. I just noticed this.
The unfortunate lack of words for medical professionals on this list is due, alas, to Tolkien's oversight. While he provided words along the lines of poison, injury, and illness, the only word I could find that was even vaguely relevant to your argument was 'ointment'. And it was listed under the same root that givesthe words 'oil' and 'glossy' rather than anything to do with medicine.
In any case, I am wholly on your side here. If I ever come across any Elvish words for doctors, nurses, or surgeons, I will let them be widely known. In the meantime I just assume such things exist in the Elvish world, and have had surgeons specifically appear in more than one story (such as when Fingon's broken nose needed fixing).
I had to laugh because at one point or another I have probably fallen into most of the pitfalls you mention. And it does not take me half an hour to come up with a name, but half a week! Thank you very much for listing all the good points to check!!
The PDF link goes to the 22 words essay. Not sure if it is you or the webadmin who needs to fix it?
This weekend was so crazy that I didn't get to tell you how much I enjoyed this latest installment of LF. I always learn so much from your columns and laugh a lot too. Thank you! :)
Again, a lovely and handy resource for lazy people like me who don't want to look everything up but still want some kind of "but it's in the books!" explanation handy when the canatics come and tear things up ;)
Nost-na-Lothion seems to be a tricky case, though. Your reasons for placing it in early May (in the spot of Beltane/Walpurgis, so to say?) are all valid, but I'm still wondering. The Nost part makes me think more of the time of year when the first flowers appear (pushing Nost-na-Lothion more towards Easter) than of the time of year when there are lots and lots of flowers everywhere. The description of melting snow also suggests March rather than May to me...
Of course, what the question probably boils down to is where to place Beleriand on a map of the world. In England, spring certainly sets in in March (if by "spring" or "birth of flowers" you mean "Yay, the snow is gone, oh look here's a narcissus and there's a crocus and the plum trees start to blossom"); in Skandinavia spring is naturally coming later, and the beginning of spring celebrated on May 1st rather than at the vernal equinox. Oof.
Sorry about all this rambling!
Darth, thank you for this! It's a great resource, and I found it a fascinating read, too. I've been working on a story/plot bunny that's insisting on being divided by the seasons, and working it around festival and holidays will help me to organise it in a way that's 'authentic' to the setting (Tirion, in this case)... the holidays and festivals might also provide some plot fodder - I'm liking the idea of festivals for love and music.
Thank you so much for this elaborate essay, it answers questions I already had (like are there named holidays and if so when) for this so it couldn't have come a a better time!
This is one is terrific. One of my favorites. Exremely useful collection of information. I often fnd myself caught up on needing holidays for my stories. My elf stories are based loosely in my real life and holidays seem to frame and/or divide the year, if for no other reason than as days off work and the time to start arguments and get oneself into hot water.
Love your research and your logical extrapolation from it.
Ooh.. elves go commando. How exciting!
Reviewer: Olorime Signed [Report This]
Date: November 11, 2009 - 12:55 pm
Title: Elvish Fanons and Canon Contradictions (Or, how to get those canatics off your case for stuff you were right about in the first place)
I guess if I had been a lowly archer; single archer and got tired of thousand of years of singing, dancing and making merry I'd have practiced at getting skilled with both hands at the bow.
Tolkien did say that even the First Born were touched by Melkor; so imperfection would have reached them.
Such an interesting essay.
Oh, my goodness! That's definitely not a word that I thought Tolkien would provide us with. How random. Thank you for the entertainment! :)
Awww! I have to admit that I am the tiniest bit disappointed that Finwe really has nothing to do with fin "hair". This is mostly because I loved the idea that this was all a very complicated in-joke, seeing how Finwe apparently became a sort of prefix for Noldorin kings (as in Fin-arfin and Fin-golfin). Why? Because of course that is just what happened in real-world history. The English word for an emperor is, well, emperor; but in many other European language it is some derivate of caesar (German "Kaiser", Russian "Zar", etc). This of course originates with a particularly famous Roman emperor, Gaius Julius Caesar, whose successors kept the name Caesar as some kind of honorific.
The in-joke comes to play when you look at where the name Caesar originally comes from. It originates with the Latin word caesarius, which means - "hairy".
You probably knew all that. >_>
At any rate, I quite liked the idea that the "Fin-" was some kind of clever reference to that. Apparently not. Oh well...