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Re: "Britishism" question

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  • Jason Fisher
    I agree that the usage is probably meant to reflect Butterbur s less sophisticated dialect. Expressions like this often serve as cues to a character s home or
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 11, 2009
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      I agree that the usage is probably meant to reflect Butterbur's less sophisticated dialect. Expressions like this often serve as cues to a character's home or stature. The choice would resonate with John's comment (below Lynn's, below) about the occurrence of the expression in rural/regional dialect. To place the colloquialism, ask yourself this: (1) could you hear Samwise using the same expression (yes); (2) would you expect to hear Boromir or Denethor using it (probably not). Gandalf and Aragorn use the expression, but in both cases I can think of, they're speaking to people who would use themselves use it (Barliman and Gimli, respectively). Aragorn and Gandlaf tend to adjust their speaking patterns, up or down, to fit the interlocutors.
       
      Jason


      From: lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...>
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thu, December 10, 2009 5:24:16 PM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Re: "Britishism" question

       

      Though I dare say JRRT wasn't suggesting *stupidity* although perhaps a lack of sophistication (in Butterbur's case?). I suspect within the context of LOTR, "true name" would be far too powerful a thing to allow the general populace to know. And "real name" probably resonates too much with "true name"; "proper name" might imply someone traveling incognito, with overtones of deception - when one considers it, the choice is pretty significant, eh?!

      -- Lynn --

      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups .com, "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
      >
      > It isn't found in that context in standard English usage in the UK, where, as you say, real or true would probably the used. But it is used in that manner in a number of regional dialects, such as North England, Valley's Welsh, and perhaps most pertinently in rural Midlands, which is of course where Tolkien grew up.
      >
      > So not a standard British idiom, but yes, Tolkien was almost certainly using it to suggest an appropriate accent.
      >
      > To the extent that David suggests it is used in humourous or ironical fashion, I believe that derives from a tendency to mock - sometimes kindly, sometimes not so much - rural accents. To put on a Northern or rural accent was - and sadly still is - often a 'comic' short-hand for suggesting stupidity. (Think Pythons.) On the other hand, the use of the word proper in the Life of Brian ('why don't you sell proper food?' is, as far as I'm aware, normal usage for the word, with the humour deriving from, um, comparison with contemporary life, perhaps).
      >
      > John
      > (The Midlands, UK!)
      >
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Croft, Janet B.
      > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups .com
      > Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 8:50 PM
      > Subject: [mythsoc] "Britishism" question
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > I've noticed that in The Lord of the Rings, there are several instance of the construction "right name" where one might say "real name" or "true name" - Butterbur says he doesn't know Strider's right name, for example, and √Čomer asks for Aragorn's right name when they meet. Before I go attributing any interesting significance to this word choice, does anyone happen to know if this phrase is a Britishism that Tolkien might have been using simply to indicate a particular accent or speech pattern? (Being Tolkien, I think he chose it very consciously, but it may ALSO be a British idiom.)
      >
      > Tak! (my one word of Icelandic!)
      > Janet
      >
      > Janet Brennan Croft
      > Associate Professor
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      > "Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the rising ape meets the falling angel." -Terry Pratchett
      >

    • ernestsdavis
      ... I m not sure these examples, or Sue s examples right British , right idiot are quite the same thing. These mean truly a hero , truly British etc.,
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 11, 2009
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        David <dbratman@...> wrote:
        >
        > Briefly, yes. Common usages of "right" for "real": "He's a right hero" or
        > "She's a right friend."

        I'm not sure these examples, or Sue's examples "right British", "right idiot" are quite the same thing. These mean "truly a hero", "truly
        British" etc., whereas "right name" does not mean "truly a name" but
        rather "rightful name".

        The fact that, as Janet points out, Eomer uses the phrase "right name" argues against the reading that Tolkien intends this as unsophisticated or rural; Eomer generally speaks in the same elevated diction as Aragorn.

        -- Ernie
      • ernestsdavis
        The OED has a couple of comparable quotes with right name (under right, a. Defn. 11 ) Properly pertaining or attached to a person or thing c1250 Gen. &
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 11, 2009
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          The OED has a couple of comparable quotes with "right name" (under
          "right, a. Defn. 11") "Properly pertaining or attached to a person or thing"


          c1250 Gen. & Ex. 2539 Pharao kinges righte name.
          1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. v. 226 Rose the regratere was hir righte name.
          c1475 Rauf Coilghear 239 Wymond of the Wardrop is my richt Name.

          The examples that David and Sue mention seem closer to Defn.
          17. Justly entitled to the name; having the true character of; true, real, veritable. a. Of persons, their character or position.
          with examples like
          1727 SWIFT Gulliver IV. iii, The Houyhnhnms..could hardly believe me to be a right Yahoo, because my Body had a different Covering from others of my Kind.
          1813 SCOTT Rokeby I. xii, Right English all, they rush'd to blows.

          -- Ernie
        • Croft, Janet B.
          This has been an interesting discussion! Tolkien being Tolkien, I think he would be well aware of all the implications of such a word choice - that it might
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 11, 2009
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            This has been an interesting discussion!  Tolkien being Tolkien, I think he would be well aware of all the implications of such a word choice – that it might indicate the speaker’s accent, or the speaker adopting the accent of the person being spoken to, while at the very same time having an underlying nuance slightly different from “true” or “real” used in the same phrase, as indicated in the OED examples below. (John Rateliff’s article in the recent Tolkien Studies is a great study of Tolkien as the sort of meticulous artist with words who would make such a choice very deliberately.)

             

            Thanks, especially to John and Sue for first-hand experience!

             

            Janet Brennan Croft

             

            From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of ernestsdavis
            Sent: Friday, December 11, 2009 4:05 PM
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [mythsoc] Re: "Britishism" question

             

             


            The OED has a couple of comparable quotes with "right name" (under
            "right, a. Defn. 11") "Properly pertaining or attached to a person or thing"

            c1250 Gen. & Ex. 2539 Pharao kinges righte name.
            1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. v. 226 Rose the regratere was hir righte name.
            c1475 Rauf Coilghear 239 Wymond of the Wardrop is my richt Name.

            The examples that David and Sue mention seem closer to Defn.
            17. Justly entitled to the name; having the true character of; true, real, veritable. a. Of persons, their character or position.
            with examples like
            1727 SWIFT Gulliver IV. iii, The Houyhnhnms..could hardly believe me to be a right Yahoo, because my Body had a different Covering from others of my Kind.
            1813 SCOTT Rokeby I. xii, Right English all, they rush'd to blows.

            -- Ernie

          • icelofangeln
            ... But that s not necessarily a contradiction: rural speech often preserves archaic elements, things that were once part of formal speech, for example in the
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 12, 2009
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              >
              > The fact that, as Janet points out, Eomer uses the phrase "right name" argues against the reading that Tolkien intends this as unsophisticated or rural; Eomer generally speaks in the same elevated diction as Aragorn.
              >

              But that's not necessarily a contradiction: rural speech often preserves archaic elements, things that were once part of formal speech, for example in the way some communities continued to use 'thee' and 'thou.' "Right X" is perfectly good Elizabethan English, as in Antony's plaint that Cleopatra "like a right gipsy hath at fast and loose/beguil'd me to the very heart of loss."

              (And what about the phrase "right now"? - just a living fossil, really. And "Right Honourable.")
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