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Got First Water?

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  • Patrick H. Wynne
    In Elfling message #30046, Arthur Boccaccio wrote, in response ... Actually, the unlikely kenning *_minuinen_ is not so much reconstructed as it is pulled
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2004
      In Elfling message #30046, Arthur Boccaccio wrote, in response
      to a request for a Sindarin word for 'milk':

      > In Thorsten Renk's Sindarin-Course [elvish.org/gwaith], he gives
      > the (reconstructed) word
      >
      > _*minuinen_ for "milk", literally "first water".

      Actually, the unlikely kenning *_minuinen_ is not so much
      "reconstructed" as it is pulled from thin air -- it certainly bears
      no resemblance in its literal sense to any etymology proposed
      for any of the Indo-European words for 'milk'.

      There are, in fact, two _attested_ words for 'milk' in Tolkien's
      published writings, both occurring in the early lexicons:

      QL gives a root ILI(1) 'shine oily', whence _ilin (-m)_ 'milk',
      _ilimba_ 'milky', _ilma_ 'oil', and _ilqa_ 'oily, smooth, glossy';
      the root is compared with ILU 'ether, the slender airs among
      the stars', whence _ilwe_ 'sky, heavens; the blue air that is
      about the stars, the middle layers'. The semantic connection
      between these roots is somewhat elusive, but Tolkien may
      have been thinking about Greek _galaxias_ 'Milky Way', from
      _gala (galakt-)_ 'milk'.

      The word for 'milk' in Gnomish is clearly from an entirely
      different root: GL gives _thim_ 'milk, after separation',
      with related verb _thin-_ or _thinta-_ 'skim' (pret. _thaini_).
      The final _-m_ in _thim_, compared with the final _n_ in
      the basic verb _thin-_ 'skim', suggests that _thim_ derives
      from an earlier form such as *_thinwa_ or *_thinwe_, probably
      meaning 'skimmed' (i.e. what is left after the _cwîr_ 'cream'
      has been skimmed off) -- for *_nw_ > _m_ in Goldogrin,
      compare Q _finwa_ 'acute, sagacious' and _tinwe_ 'star'
      in QL with Gn. _fim_ 'clever' and _tim_ 'spark, gleam (star)'.

      Gn. _thim_ would thus serve quite well as a Neo-Sindarin
      word for 'milk' -- its form is in accord with the phonology of
      Sindarin, it isn't homophonous with any later words (homophony
      seems to vex the Neo-Elvish speakers mightily), and best of
      all it was created by JRR Tolkien himself.

      -- Patrick H. Wynne
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