This post is in response to a series of exchanges between David Salo
and Patrick Wynne on the Elfling mailing list. David's first post
uses a misrepresentation of one of two proposed etymologies for Q.
_Elpino_, an unglossed name referring to Christ (and later replaced
with the phonetic adaptation _Hrísto_ 'Christ') found in Tolkien's
Quenya translation of the Litany of Loreto (VT44:15-16) as an excuse
to attack the editor of that text, while conveniently (for his
purposes) failing to accurately represent the etymologies his is
summarily rejecting, and indeed failing to actually cite the article
or give any indication that he has even read it; this post can be
Patrick Wynne then replied, citing the actual contents of the article
in question and relating the alternative etymologies considered
there, and their bases; this post can be read at:
David replied to this post, reasserting his own, preferred etymology
as fact, while further misrepresenting the actual article, the
alternative etymologies offered, and their relative statuses; this
post can be read at:
Let's now go through David's "reasoning", and consider his methods
> Certainly _elpino_ simply means "anointed one"
The analysis in VT 44 proposes 'the Anointed' as one of two possible
interpretations of the name, based on a thorough examination of the
data of Tolkien's languages. _No one_, however (not even David Salo),
is in any position to _assert_ that this _is_ its meaning
("_certainly_ _[E]lpino_ simply means 'anointed one'"), since Tolkien
did not gloss the form. Unless David can produce a text in which
Tolkien provides this gloss for this word, or unless he is going to
claim to be able to channel Tolkien's intentions from beyond the
grave, it is _by no means certain_ that this is its intended meaning.
Unsupported assertions such as these have no place in scholarly
discourse, and are symptomatic of an inability to imagine or
adequately navigate uncertainty and multiple possibilities.
> Tolkien is making an amusing reference to an obscure Indo-European
We have again the bare assertion of mere hypothesis, an unscholarly
rhetorical device that at least one critic has referred to as "the
desecration of 'is'". David's hypothesis is intriguing, and it _may_
indeed be what Tolkien had in mind; but it is nonetheless no more
than hypothesis, and but one hypothesis among several. The mere fact
that David prefers it in no way elevates it to fact, or even
intrinsically above other hypotheses. It is both (characteristically)
unscholarly and (characteristically) arrogant of David to attempt to
bully and mislead his readers into thinking otherwise.
Please note for further reference below that David here declares his
favored etymology to depend on an "obscure" I.E. etymon; he will
claim the opposite below, when it serves his purpose to do so.
> The reference in _this_ case is to a word attested in the lexicon
of the Greek grammarian Hesychius, which contains a lot of very
obscure and technical vocabulary
There is that desecrated (and unscholarly, misleading, and arrogant)
"is" again. And again, note that David refers to his etymon as
> The word in this case is _élpos_ "oil"
David fails to note that standard works (e.g., Liddell and Scott,
Hofmann, etc.) variously gloss Greek _élpos_ as 'oil', 'fat',
> _elpino_ is of course accommodated to Quenya,
Still _another_ desecrated "is"; David again asserts his hypothesis.
> and must be a personalized (masculine) form of a past participle
_elpina_, suggesting a verb _elp-_ "anoint, smear with oil"
David was not the first to propose this analysis of the form, or this
putative verb stem; this was first proposed in VT 44. But since
David fails to note this fact, we must believe either a) that he had
not in fact read the analysis in _VT_, in which case he is in the
unscholarly position of being unfamiliar with the primary and
principal secondary literature of the field he has entered; or b)
that he is deliberately avoiding mentioning that this analysis is not
original with him, in which case he is in the unscholarly position of
representing a scholar's prior analysis as his own. (Note that David
will subsequently claim that he had in fact read this analysis in
> the confluence of evidence (the original meaning of _khristos_
"anointed with oil", and the borrowing of the Hesychian _elpos_ with
exactly the right meaning "oil") reveal that this derivation [from
the attested base LEP] is a mirage
And yet _another_ desecrated "is". Note that David asserts again that
Tolkien "borrowed" _élpos_, and then uses this, _his_, assertion
as "evidence". Note too that David is rejecting an attested base,
LEP, in favor of his own, unattested, ad hoc construction, *ELEP.
In summary, we can trace the thoroughly unscholarly Salo Method of
1) Assert your conclusion ("Tolkien borrowed *_elp-_ from Gk.
2) Dismiss all other opinions on the matter (without accurately
rehearsing, considering, citing, crediting, or even reading them),
using condescending, disdainful language in place of reasoning or
persuasion ("dubious and arbitrary", "mirage").
3) Disguise your hypotheses as fact by introducing them with words
like "certainly", "of course", "is", etc.
4) Count your assertion(s) as evidence supporting your conclusion
("The confluence of evidence [including] the (asserted) borrowing
proves my (asserted) conclusion")
The very hallmarks of scholarship include 1) Maintaining and
demonstrating familiarity with the core literature of one's field; 2)
Positioning one's work with respect to that literature, by citing,
rehearsing, and crediting the work of others; and 3) Observing a
dispassionate distinction between hypothesis and fact, and between
certainty and multiple possibilities. David has here once again
succinctly demonstrated his inability to operate within even these
most basic norms of scholarly discourse and conduct.
Before continuing, I wish to reiterate that David's _hypothesis_
concerning Gk. _élpos_ is indeed a possible explanation, and
intriguing at that. This examination is in no way intended to refute
David's _hypothesis_; instead, unlike David, it is concerned to
maintain a distinction between _fact_ and mere _hypothesis_, and to
avoid asserting as certain fact what is in fact but one of several
possible explanations; as well as to shine a light on the manner and
mode of David's unscholarly attitudes and practices.
(Consider: why could David not have simply written something like, "I
would like to propose another possible interpretation of _Elpino_:
noting the existence of Greek _élpos_ 'oil', might it not be
possible that in _Elpino_ Tolkien has adapted the Greek form, perhaps
as another example of the sort of amusing reference to Indo-European
etymology of which he was fond? Though obscure, _élpos_ is thought
to untangle a knot of forms of some interest to Indo-Europeanists, so
it is not unlikely that Tolkien would have known of it." And so on,
without the combative, dismissive, condescending, and unscholarly
attitude and presentation. The answer is, of course, twofold: first,
that the proposals he meant to set his beside were made in the hated
_Vinyar Tengwar_, by the hated Patrick Wynne -- can anyone imagine
David writing as he did in response to a proposal by, say, Helge
Fauskanger, or Kai MacTane, or any of a host of other participants on
Elfling? -- and so could not be simply extended, but had to be mocked
and belittled; and second, lacking _real_ conviction that his is the
more satisfying explanation, he cannot leave it to the marketplace of
ideas and discourse to vote on its merits, he had to assert it and
negate all others.)
Following Patrick Wynne's reply by way of accurately representing the
contents of the _VT_ analysis, and providing balance to David's
assertions, David continued his campaign, with his usual mix of
assertion, condescension, and misrepresentation:
> I have read your article.
As discussed above, we have to take this assertion on faith -- as
David is wont to expect his readers to do with his assertions --
because David gave (and gives still) no indication of having done so:
there is not a single citation from the article, he presents an
analysis from the article without crediting it to the article, and he
did not (and still does not) accurately rehearse or represent the
> I do not refer to most of it because it is largely irrelevant.
Cf. the Salo Method (above), point 2: "Dismiss all other opinions on
the matter (without accurately rehearsing, considering, citing,
crediting, or even reading them), using condescending, disdainful
language in place of reasoning or persuasion".
> you do not reference _élpos_ "oil" (I suppose because you were
unaware of the word, though you mayn't care to admit as much)
Note that David here insinuates that a lack of knowledge of his Gk.
etymon, which he himself _twice previously_ declared to be "obscure"
(as you will recall from above), is something that should be
considered shameful. In typical Saloan fashion, he will assert both a
thing and its opposite, as it suits his purpose.
> and ultimately you seem to reject the interpretation of _elpino_ as
David has dishonestly omitted the crucial fact that it can "seem"
this way only anyone who has not actually read the _VT_ analysis,
which in fact presents two possible explanations without making a
value judgment between them, instead calling them only "alternative"
explanations. David knows this, of course, because we have to believe
he is telling the truth about having read the analysis; so his
misrepresentation of the analysis can only be deliberate.
> et+lip- should give, at closest, ellip- (or perhaps eltip-), not
This is another misrepresentation (and it must be deliberate if David
is telling the truth about having read the _VT_ analysis), since the
_VT_ analysis does _not_ propose "et+lip-" as a possible explanation
of the form (for precisely the same phonological reasons that David
notes); this strawman is solely David's construction. But David wants
to mislead his readers into thinking a) that Pat _did_ propose this
analysis, and b) that Pat _is_ ignorant of the phonological
constraints, and c) that Pat proposed _no other_ analysis. Three
falsehoods for the price of one.
> Given that there is evidence for a Greek word of connected form and
meaning, this certainly ought to have been taken into consideration.
I notice that David fails to heed his own remonstrance: for _he_
fails to "take into consideration" the even more similar (and far
from "obscure") Greek form _elpis_ 'hope', also of "connected
meaning" (for Christ is certainly the Hope of His people). By the
same token, why not consider English "help"? I'm sure I could scour
dictionaries and come up with any number of other "similarities". But
given the "obscurity" of the form _élpos_, twice noted by David,
does it not make at least as much sense to search for possible
explanations _within Tolkien's own languages_, and evidenced _by
Tolkien's own writings_? Oh, but wait, David has declared those to be
"dubious and arbitrary", a "mirage", and "irrelevant", as evidenced,
of course, solely by his assertion. And what are Tolkien's words next
> Reading your articles, Patrick, does not lead to automatic
agreement with their judgments.
Pat of course never said or implied that it does. It is David, not
Pat, who argues by assertion, and allows no other possibilities than
the one he asserts. It is David, not Pat, who permits no principled
dissent from his assertions ("dubious and arbitrary", "mirage",
"irrelevant"). It is David, not Pat, who condescends and belittles
and scolds. It is David, not Pat, who misleads and misrepresents.
> These comments seem to imply that that words "eklektós" and
"eklelegménos" are words that can be taken as equivalents to
David _yet again_ has dishonestly omitted the crucial fact that it
can "seem" this way only anyone who has not actually read Pat's
words. Pat is in no way claiming or implying any such thing; he
merely notes that referring to Christ as "the Chosen" _has Scriptural
basis_, and therefore provides corroboration for the _proposal_ (only
that!) that _Elpino_ might be derived from the (unlike David's *ELEP)
_attested_ base LEP.
> And yet it is the latter, however, that the article places finally
and without evaluation, so appearing to settle on it as the most
The audacity of David's dishonesty and the enormity of his contempt
for his readers and for truth is here astounding even by Saloan
standards. Pat presented two possible explanations, _without
evaluation_, _AS DAVID HIMSELF HERE NOTES!!!!!_. And yet David has
such contempt for his readers that he can, in the same breath, assert
that mere order alone (one has to come first, and the other second)
MEANS THAT PAT CONSIDERS ONE MORE LIKELY THAN THE OTHER!!!!! because
it suits his purpose to do so. Have you at last no shame, David?
> The allusion [to Greek _élpos_ which David asserts] is not vague
but quite obvious, and _élpos_ is not a word that is obscure to
anyone who has spent some time studying Indo-European languages
David has _twice_ described his Greek etymon as "obscure" (see
above); but now that that no longer suits his rhetorical purposes, he
denies its obscurity, while implying that Pat has _not_ "spent some
time studying Indo-European languages" (which is patently false). I
daresay that the field of Indo-European studies would be worse than
decimated were its professionals (which Pat of course has never
claimed to be) held to the Saloan standard of knowledge of this
(Speaking of which: I for one cannot wait to follow the professional
career of David Salo when he actually has to subject his work --
assuming, that is, that he ever actually publishes anything -- to
review by peers in Indo-European studies. If he carries over the same
mode of "scholarship" that he practices on Tolkien's languages and on
readers of Elfling, it should make for a most amusing, if not short,
career indeed. I will be scanning the abstracts and reviews eagerly.)
> the question of why Tolkien frequently used Greek roots in Elvish
languages is one I cannot answer with any certainty
It is also a question that is not at all relevant to the present
discussion, and is introduced here solely by David Salo, so that he
can once again condescend to Pat by way of teaching his grandmother
to suck eggs:
> I can provide a more considerable list of Greek stems found in
Despite David's condescending implication, so could Pat; so could I;
so could anyone with a copy of the Lexicons and a good, etymological
dictionary of Greek. So what?
And now that you mention it, David, why _don't_ you put your immense
learning to use, for a change, in something resembling actual
scholarly work, for a change, on Tolkien's languages, for a change,
and actually _provide_ such a list, and others like it (e.g., Gothic
and Latin influences, of which there are clearly an abundance)? Would
this not be a better use of your time, instead of your usual
unscholarly, dishonest, masturbatory, contrived, contemptuous,
Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org
ho bios brachys, he de techne makre.
Ars longa, vita brevis.
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
"I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take such
a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about."