Hyphenated Food Words

Just for the record, Word Fans, the map for the hyphenated food words closely follows the graph of all the food words:

FoodGraph.003Do you see that tiny little red dot at the very end?  “Tobacco-jar”.

The food graph, if you recall, also indicates a dearth of food in Chapter 6 and plenty of crockery at the end of Chapter 1 – as well as plain eggs and ham in Chapter 1 for the dwarves and plain food (mostly flagons, jugs, and casks) for the elven feast:

2015.06.14 Food Preview


Would you like a little menu of Hobbit-specialty food words?


Hyphenated Words of the Landscape

I’ve spent a good deal of yesterday and today assigning functions to the 407 hyphenated words.  I’ve also beaten myself up a bit for not preserving the inflected forms of the words on my spreadsheet and went back to re-capture that information.  Then there was that little capitalization inconsistency problem.  I know, I could have asked Tech Support to make the script I was using case-insensitive, but I hate to bother them too many times per week.  On the Big Plus side, I discovered ConvertCase.net for all your Latin alphabet capitalization needs!

Sorry, I’m nattering.

In the course of labeling the functions of words, I found a big old whack of natural landscape descriptions, “bee-pastures”, “fir-trees”, and similar.  Let’s look at the graph!


Do you like it?  Descriptions in early Chapter 2, as Bilbo is leaving his home territory; very few descriptions in the dark of the goblins’ and Gollum’s caverns until the side-passages and similar formations on Bilbo’s way out; a steep peak for the “pine-needles”, “forest-gloom”,  “forest-silence”, and “sea-sighing”, all of paragraph 6.045, as we leapt out of the “frying-pan”.

Landscape words taper off as we see Bilbo at a loss for words to describe Mirkwood, then suddenly, Smaug discovers the theft of the cup!  We take the dragon’s perspective as he shakes the mountain-roots, exits the mountain-palace, settles on the mountain-top, licks the mountain-sides with flame, and leaves rock-shadows dancing in paragraphs {12.021] through [12.032].   Finally, during the battle-scenes of Chapter 17, there is no looking about at the landscape: that pleasure can only resume in Chapter 18, The Return Journey.

JRRT’s Original Hyphenated Words

Good morning, Word Fans.  I hope it doesn’t intrude on your peace over the next three days, but the blog is going into overdrive to fulfill its other primary role as my lab notebook.  Please practice good self-care: if you need to, unsubscribe until Sunday afternoon, when things should return to normal.

Just over half of the hyphenated words in The Hobbit are perfectly ordinary English words, per the OED.  Some of them may have no hyphen  in the preferred spelling, some may have a space instead of a hyphen between the elements, but the hyphenated forms are found at least in the example sentences of the OED.

The other part of the hyphenated words have received the JRRT tag.   Of these, some are given by OED specifically as creations of Tolkien, such as “elf-king“!  Others are credited to Tolkien for introducing the hyphenated form, for example “riddle-game”.  Some, like “raven-messenger” are in the OED just so, but Tolkien has used them with a completely new meaning, earning the tag.  The majority, including Middle-earth specific names like “Foe-Hammer” as well but many more plain words such as “thunder-battle” are simply not found in OED at all.

In what pattern did Tolkien use these inventions?  Is there anything to be discerned from the map of them?


Fascinating.  OK, I’m going to compare it to yesterday’s graph of all hyphenated words:

HyphenGraph.010As the Tolkien Professor would say, “What do we see?”  Here’s a clue we can use to compare the charts: Lexos makes the chart fit the space, even if the height of the red line is on a different scale from chart to chart.  Since the JRRT words number just under half of the total hyphenated words, know that the scale is doubled.  In other words, the “pretty full in the beginning of chapter five” appearance of the red line on the first, JRRT, graph would be equal to “filling up just about half of the available height” on the second, All Hyphens graph.

  • The big Chapter One peak of hyphenated words is not driven by JRRT originals.
  • The peak in JRRT words at the end of Chapter 3 is driven by all the doings in Rivendell of Elrond the elf-friend, fair as an elf-lord, his house full of story-telling, and who explains that the swords just found are not troll-make but made for the Goblin-wars: Goblin-cleaver and Foe-hammer.
  • I observe that the first half of Chapter 5 – full of sound words like drip-drip-dripping – is about half-full on the All Hyphens graph and quite full on the JRRT graph; in other words, Tolkien created the hyphenated words which set the stage and open the action for Gollum’s chapter.
  • I see that there’s a dip in the JRRT graph at the end of Chapter 6 which is not echoed in the All Hyphens graph.  Although there are JRRT words there, there are also pine-needles and frying-pans, quite ordinary words.
  • After Chapter 6, the JRRT graph roughly parallels the All Hyphens graph; his original hyphenated words take up their expected proportion of all hyphenated words.

“One of the nerdiest Tolkien projects”

I finally feel like it’s OK to brag a little.  Brenton Dickieson, Tolkien scholar and lecturing professor at Signum University, has called this project “one of the nerdiest Tolkien projects I know about.”  I’m just over the moon with this compliment – Dickieson would know from nerdy.  His delicious blog, A Pilgrim in Narnia, has a new post about C. S. Lewis, Inklings, fantasy, and other treats at least weekly.

Updated Hyphen Peak

As my Word Fans know, in the last two years I have found a handful more hyphenated words that escaped my 2015 analysis.  While I would have been surprised if these few had changed the overall hyphen picture, it’s best to be certain.

This passage is the densest region of hyphens.

[01.117] Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and therefore legendary).  That is why I settled on burglary – especially when I remembered the existence of a Side-door.  And here is our little Bilbo Baggins, the burglar, the chosen and selected burglar.  So now let’s get on and make some plans.’

[01.118]  ‘Very well then,’ said Thorin, ‘supposing the burglar-expert gives us some ideas or suggestions.’ He turned with mock-politeness to Bilbo.

Our graph was created using LEXOS and marked up with GIMP.  It acts as a map of the frequency of hyphenated words in The Hobbit across the chapters.



Sometimes it is spelled strung together with no hyphens.  Sometimes it is spelled with double Ss and spaces.  Twice, however, it is spelled with hyphens, and if I’m trying to be scrupulous about the hyphens, then here we are – Gollum’s signature sound:

  • 05.066 S-s-s-s-s,’ hissed Gollum.
  • 05.070 S-s-s-s-s,’ said Gollum

Both of these sounds are in the 1937 edition of The Hobbit, for those of you who have been tracking the differences between the elder and younger editions with me.