Letter #14: Obscure Hobbit-y Words from the Dictionary
Okay, “obscure” might be relative here. Some of these were obscure to me, but they might not be to someone else, or they might all be obscure to someone else.
Everybody has their own sphere of knowledge; my goal is to widen mine and share that now-widened knowledge with others. So, here you go.
Before we dive in, if anyone wants any refreshers about the Halflings, there’s a wiki for that: https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Hobbits.
Let’s jump into the dictionary!
noun: “an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like, that serves drinks, especially beer, and simple or hearty food” (Dictionary.com)
This sounds just like the kind of libations-serving place that might be dug into the side of a hill in the Shire. Or, ya know, the Green Dragon Inn or the Golden Perch Inn. The Prancing Pony could probably count too, but I don’t think that one was in the Shire.
I learned this word from the Word of the day emails I get from Dictionary.com. This word is what got me thinking about a list of Hobbit-y words.
Fun Fact: This word comes from the Middle French word “to brew,” which just makes me think of Middle Earth. And Middle English. Linguistic middle things all around.
noun: a round bread loaf, referring to the shape of the bread
From the French word for “ball,” this word describes a round (as opposed to an oblong one called a batard) bread loaf.
As Hobbits famously love simple foods like bread and cheese, this word seemed to fit. My husband and I also adore breadmaking, so any time I get to share bread terms with people is a good day. (A breadmaking newsletter issue, anyone?)
Fun Fact: The word has a lot of meanings, including the name of an ancient Greek council?!
Check here for all the definitions: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/boule
Check here for the word in terms of ancient Greece: https://www.britannica.com/topic/boule-ancient-Greek-council
The things you learn when you comb through dictionaries and encyclopedias, both physical and digital!
Curious about bread shapes? Here, have some information: https://thedigestivechronicles.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/boules-batards-bannetons/
1. peaceful, tranquil
2. Happy, carefree
3. Mythical bird from Greek mythology tied to the winter solstice and having the power to calm wind and waves
I did not know this was a word or even a name until I met a girl at summer camp in seventh grade with this name. Ever since, this word has always popped into my head when thinking about anything remotely peaceful. The fact that it was a mythical bird was news to me, though I did know it was somehow related to Greek mythology.
1. to drink sociably
2. to associate familiarly
I’m picturing Hobbit hobnobbing together in taverns or homes together, enjoying one another’s congenial company.
Fun Fact: According to the word’s entry in Merriam-Webster, Shakespeare first coined the term by jamming together “hob” and “nob” in Twelfth Night, though not meaning the same thing, nor even being a singular word. Apparently the first use of the word as we use it today came in 1813.
noun: a stomachache
What a Hobbit might get after a full day of feasting. Can Hobbits get bellyaches? I would think so, but I’m not an expert.
Fun Fact: Apparently the word actually might have originated from cholera. See here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/top-10-funny-sounding-and-interesting-words/collywobbles
noun: the rumbling sounds of intestinal gas as the body digests food
What one would have after Elevensies.
Basically rumbly tummy sounds after you’ve eaten a good meal. Also, one of my favorite words. Pronouncing “bor-bo-ryg-mus” is very entertaining.
1. “a very happy, peaceful, and simple situation or period of time, especially in the countryside, or a piece of music, literature, etc.” (Cambridge Dictionary)
2. “a poem or prose composition, usually describing pastoral scenes or events or any charmingly simple episode, appealing incident, or the like” (Dictionary.com)
The very definition feels like a description of the peaceful Shire.
Even as someone who was a literature student for a good deal of college, I feel like I’ve heard ‘idyllic’ way more than ‘idyll.’ This is funny to me because an idyll is also a poem about picturesque or pastoral life, so I probably should’ve heard the term quite a bit as a lit Major. I’ve read poems like this, but they were always described as pastorals, not idylls.
1. “of, characterized by, or depicting rural life, scenery, etc.”
2. “portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, art, or music.”
3. “denoting or relating to the branch of theology dealing with the duties of a clergyman or priest to his congregation.” (Merriam-Webster)
“a poem, play, or the like, dealing with the life of shepherds, commonly in a conventional or artificial manner, or with simple rural life generally; a bucolic.”
2. “music a variant of pastorale” (Merriam-Webster)
Speaking of that p-adjective and p-noun I just used… you could use the adjective to describe the Shire, or write a pastoral poem about the lives of those living in the Shire.
noun: “fine rain falling after sunset from a sky in which no clouds are visible” (Merriam-Webster)
This word is so incredibly specific and quaint that it instantly transported me to a cloudless sky above rolling fields, watching from a heath as gentle rain watered my crops as the sun sank ever closer to the horizon. I imagine Samwise Gamgee watching a rain like this from his window as it watered his garden.
1. Relating to dancing
2. (when capitalized) relating to Terpsichore, the Muse of dance and song (noun): a dancer
Parties. Dancing. Merriment. What could be more Hobbit-y? Probably only food.
Also, completely did not know the name of any of the Muses, sooo… of course I dove down that rabbit hole and climbed out with way too much information.
The Nine Muses are:
Clio: Muse of history and the guitar, often pictured with a *clarion and book or a scroll
Euterpe: Muse of musical instruments, usually pictured with a flute
Thalia: Muse of comedy, geometry, architecture, and agriculture; pictured with a theatrical comedy mask
Melpomene/Melpomeni: Muse of tragedy and rhetoric speech, often pictured with a theatrical tragedy mask
Terpsichore: Muse of dancing, harps, and education; pictured with laurels in her hair, dancing with a harp
Erato: Muse of love and love poetry, usually pictured with a lyre and bow and arrow
Polymnia/Polyhymnia: Muse of divine hymns, geometry, and grammar; pictured looking up at the sky with a lyre
Urania/Ourania: Muse of astronomy and celestial bodies, often pictured with stars and a globe
Calliope: the chief Muse, of justice, peace, and heroic poems; pictured holding laurels and poetry or a writing tablet
*A clarion is a shrill war trumpet and likely the origin of the adjective of the same name, meaning “clear and alerting” (Dictionary.com)
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Wrapping It All Up (Like a Blanket)
There you have it, folks.
I’ll admit I don’t have quite the poignant stories for my love of Lord of the Rings the way some people seem to, as so many writers point to Tolkien’s work as what made them fall in love with reading and want to write themselves. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fill that department for me, as I didn’t read Tolkien until high school, much after my Literary Renaissance in elementary school. I had read The Hobbit as a kid, but fifth grade me didn’t appreciate the writing style or humor at that time. It wasn’t until high school that my then-boyfriend (now husband) convinced me to binge the entire movie series (Director’s cuts, mind you) and lent me his compiled copy of the entire series.
Unfortunately, I do forget a fair portion of the books because I just read all of them in one long go as one book. I hope to reread separate copies of the books, like a pretty trilogy set from Barnes and Noble or a vintage Etsy shop or the library. Maybe reading the whole trilogy with no breaks wasn’t the best way for me to read it, so I definitely want to give it another go.
Recently, I’ve been so into comics that it’s a bit difficult to switch gears into novels. My reading interests migrate from genre to genre and topic to topic every few years. I’ve been heavily into comics and graphic novels for the last two-ish (three?) years. I’ve read waaay fewer prose novels than I used to, partially after graduating school and being burned out from reading so many things I didn’t want to. So we’ll see when this re-read of this charming series happens.
Until then, maybe you can use these words out in the wild! Fare thee well!
For those who celebrate it, have a Happy Thanksgiving this week! Hope everyone has a lovely week ahead of them and finds something lovely to read! Like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings trilogy!
Maybe I should start listing book recommendations when I wish you all “happy reading.” Thoughts?
Quote of the Week:
Okay, so I was going to list the quote “No person, however small, is insignificant” because I thought that was a Tolkien quote, but no. After much Googling, this does not seem to a Tolkien quote nor even a real quote from anyone?!
Did I misremember the actual Tolkien quote of “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” and somehow mash it together in my brain with the Aesop quote “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted?” I think that might be what I did.
Is “No person, however small, is insignificant” a quote from someone, or is this now technically a quote from me? Do I have a quote I’ve been repeating to myself all these years while thinking it was some great writer’s? Does anyone know of this quote, or did I literally make it up?
So I guess you get three quotes of the week today. I have learned many things this day.
Works Cited (MLA 9th Edition)
Cambridge Dictionary. “Idyll.” Cambridge University Press, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/idyll. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Clarion.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/clarion. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Halcyon.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/halcyon. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Idyll.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/idyll. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Pastoral.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pastoral. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Serein.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-day/serein-2021-11-08/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Terpsichorean.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/terpsichorean. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Dictionary.com. “Word of the Day: Tuesday, November 09, 2021: Brasserie.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-day/brasserie-2021-11-09/?param=wotd-email&click=ca77rh?param%3Dwotd-email&click=ca77rh&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Live%20WOTD%20Recurring%202021-11-09&utm_term=WOTD. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Muse.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Muse-Greek-mythology. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Greek Myths & Greek Mythology. “The Nine Muses Of The Greek Mythology.” Greek Myths & Greek Mythology, https://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/nine-muses-in-greek-mythology/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Merriam-Webster. “'Cattywampus' and Other Funny-Sounding Words.” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/top-10-funny-sounding-and-interesting-words/collywobbles. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Merriam-Webster. “Hobnob.” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobnob?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=wotd&utm_content=definitiontext&utm_email=. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
The One Wiki to Rule Them All. “Inn.” Fandom, https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Inn. Accessed 21 Nov. 2021.
Boule! Cool! So, if I go to Panera and ask for soup in a bread bowl, is it technically a bread boule? : )
Thank you for this lovely epistolary installment of Hobbit-y goodness! Did you know Tolkien not only contributed to my favorite dictionary—the OED—but also served as an editorial assistant? Logophiles unite. :-)