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The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford…

The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (2006)

by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, E. S. C. Weiner

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A view of Tolkein's life and work by three philologists from the OED. The details of Tolkein's work on the dictionary at the OUP from 1918-1925 were of interest, but the main part of the book is an alphabetical list of words selected by the philologists from Tolkein's writing; this part is probably better as a reference than to read straight through. Unlikely to appeal to anyone who has never read The Lord of the Rings. ( )
  Thruston | Aug 24, 2015 |
A book divided into three parts. The first talks about Tolkien's time working with the Oxford English Dictionary. It sets the scene for the second part that talks about his work as a wordsmith. Or, as the book terms his word skills, "wordright". Finally the the last chapter lists 100 words of the most interesting words Tolkien used (in the author's opinion of course) and a brief overview on where the word comes from and how Tolkien used it.

I thought the biography/work on the Oxford dictionary section a bit skimpy. I'd say this is really only for people who are interested in Tolkien and also very interested in philology. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
A slender, but interesting little volume, which, in spite of the title, is far more about Tolkien's use of language than about the OED. Tolkien's short career with the OED is covered, with interesting discussion of particular words that he worked on, but the bulk of the book treats our his philological expertise affected his use and coinage of words to give the appropriate flavor to the fantasy worlds he created. It is, perhaps, a little disconcerting to see the full-gunned philological treatment normally reserved for older and greater writers extended to a work of fantasy literature, but whether your interest is in Tolkien or in the history of English, this section is entertaining and enlightening. ( )
  sjnorquist | May 15, 2014 |
  Celebrimbor | Oct 16, 2009 |
This was an interesting book that should interest people who like reading about reading and the OED. The authors are current editors of the OED, which Tolkien spent two years working on in its first edition, which makes for an interesting perspective. The basic idea is to look at Tolkien as a philologist and to examine how he used and created words and how those words played a role in creating Middle-Earth. The most canonical example is that of Ents: Tolkien first knew the word as an Old English word for 'giant' and then created Ents and that whole corner of his world to fit the word. The book also interestingly points out the many new layers of meaning that Tolkien gave to the elements of his world through the linguistic resonances of the words he "invented" from ancient, dis-used roots. There is a whole level of subtle puns and linguistic meaning that informs Lord of the Rings that goes largely unnoticed to those unfamiliar with the ancient languages that Tolkien lived and breathed.

This was a good book, although it had its flaws, too. It read more like a long journal article than a book, and the first section- on the work Tolkien actually did for the dictionary- was relatively uninformative. The final section is a collection of word studies of the origins of Tolkien's words , and that was very interesting. Overall I'd give it 4 stars, or perhaps a bit less, since the writing style was not very engaging. ( )
3 vote Foxen | May 14, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Gilliverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marshall, Jeremymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Weiner, E. S. C.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.

Robert Louis Stevenson
First words
Nay, I have worried at whiles even over the tongues of Men, but Melo take them! they shift and change, change and shift, and when you have them are but a hard stuff whereof to labour songs or tales.
(Rúmil, in The Book of Lost Tales; HME I.47)
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes J. R. R. Tolkien as 'writer and philologist'.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0198610696, Hardcover)

Tolkien's first job, on returning home from World War I, was as an assistant on the staff of the OED. He later said that he had "learned more in those two years than in any other equal part of his life." The Ring of Words reveals how his professional work on the Oxford English Dictionary influenced Tolkien's creative use of language in his fictional world.
Here three senior editors of the OED offer an intriguing exploration of Tolkien's career as a lexicographer and illuminate his creativity as a word user and word creator. The centerpiece of the book is a wonderful collection of "word studies" which will delight the heart of Ring fans and word lovers everywhere. The editors look at the origin of such Tolkienesque words as "hobbit," "mithril, "Smeagol," "Ent," "halfling," and "worm" (meaning "dragon"). Readers discover that a word such as "mathom" (anything a hobbit had no immediate use for, but was unwilling to throw away) was actually common in Old English, but that "Mithril," on the other hand, is a complete invention (and the first "Elven" word to have an entry in the OED). And fans of Harry Potter will be surprised to find that "Dumbledore" (the name of Hogwart's headmaster) was a word used by Tolkien and many others (it is a dialect word meaning "bumblebee").
Few novelists have found so much of their creative inspiration in the shapes and histories of words. Presenting archival material not found anywhere else, The Ring of Words offers a fresh and unexplored angle on the literary achievements of one of the world's most famous and best-loved writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

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