Got First Water?
- 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 givesActually, the unlikely kenning *_minuinen_ is not so much
> the (reconstructed) word
> _*minuinen_ for "milk", literally "first water".
"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