Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Etymological punning

Expand Messages
  • David Kiltz
    In a letter to VT (published in #36) Anthony Appleyard looks, inter alia, at the QL entry _velike_ great [VT36:34]. He notes the obvious resemblance to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2003
      In a letter to VT (published in #36) Anthony Appleyard looks, inter
      alia, at the QL entry _velike_ 'great' [VT36:34]. He notes the obvious
      resemblance to Russian and Ukrainian _velikiy_ 'great, mighty'. The
      corresponding Gnomish form is _beleg_ both deriving from a root BEL-
      (the latter later re-etymologized as deriving from MBEL-).

      One thing long noted is that some of Tolkien's words closely resemble
      words in other Indo-European languages or could be, virtually, derived
      from PIE roots. Strikingly, Tolkien, sort of, provides 'alternative
      etymologies' for words found in Indo-European languages (especially
      Germanic, but by no means exclusively so). That happens especially
      often when an etymology is difficult or not well established (or was at
      his time).

      The same is true for Russian _velikiy_. Currently, it would be derived
      from PIE _*welH-_ 'to be powerful, rule'. (Earlier it would have been
      _*wel-_ 'to choose, wish' lumped together with the aforementioned root.
      Today, rather two roots are assumed: _*welH-_ and _*welh1-_.) The root
      meaning 'to be powerful, rule' yields such words as Gothic _waldan 'to
      rule', Russian _vlasti_, Tocharian B _walo_ (<*_wlH(o)nt-_) 'ruler',
      Latin _valere_ 'be strong' etc.

      Briefly, this etymology is difficult because of the quality of the
      first vowel in the Russian word, namely 'e'. Deriving _velikiy_ from
      _*welh1-_ doesn't really make sense semantically (some people would
      still unite both roots, which may be possible. However, they seem to be
      differentiated already at the PIE period and thus _velikiy_ would still
      have to be derived from the 'to be powerful' root).

      So, we see that Tolkien, in a way, provides an alternative etymology
      for _velikiy_, if we take it (or rather _velik-_) to be of Elvish origin. It
      would then derive from a root BEL- which is of course, in turn,
      Indo-European (_*bel-_ 'to be powerful, have strength', cf. Old Indic
      _bali_ 'strong', Greek _beltiƓn_ 'better', Latin _de-bilis_ 'weak,

      The implications can be pursued further considering Q. _val-_ 'to be
      mighty, powerful, rule' etc. but I'll leave it here for the moment.

      I tried to illustrate an instance of what I think is etymological
      punning, as this kind of witty, knowledgeable playfulness pervades
      J.R.R. Tolkien's language creations.
      Another case of 'applicability' if you will.

      David Kiltz
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.