The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary

The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary

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by Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner, Jeremy Marshall
     
 

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Tolkien's first job, on returning home from World War I, was as an assistant on the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary. 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 OED influenced Tolkien's creative use of language in his…  See more details below

Overview


Tolkien's first job, on returning home from World War I, was as an assistant on the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary. 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 OED 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.

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Editorial Reviews

"I learned more in those two years than in any other equal part of my life." The two years to which J.R.R. Tolkien was referring consisted of his tenure as an assistant on the Oxford English Dictionary. The importance of philology to the lifework of Tolkien has been noted frequently by his biographers and critics, but The Ring of Words is the most comprehensive exploration into Tolkien's career as a lexicographer and its lasting impact on his writing. Three senior editors of the OED delve deeply into etymologies that offer insights into such Tolkienesque words as "hobbit," "Smeagol," "Halfling," and "Ent."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198610694
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
05/31/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Gilliver is an Associate Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, having joined the project in 1987. He is also working on a history of the OED for Oxford University Press. Jeremy Marshall is an Associate Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary; he joined the department in 1988 as a science editor for the New Shorter OED. He was co-author of Questions of English. Edmund Weiner is Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary; he joined in 1977 to work on the Supplement to the OED. He has written several books on English grammar and usage, and teaches an annual course in the history of English.

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The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok
Guest More than 1 year ago
Short on Tolkien stuff, this is more a springboard for the authors to rave about the Oxford English Dictionary. Slightly disappointing. If you are a budding philologist slash Middle-earth buff, go for it. Those wanting more Tolkien bio, fan-raving, should try Tom Shippey's books, which the authors routinely cite.