What shall we do with Mountain-king?

In my mission to identify which hyphenated words are Tolkien original compositions, I have use the Oxford English Dictionary’s word on whether something like “Moss-green” is only ever found as “mossgreen” or “moss green” and if the hyphenated form is not attested, I’ve given it the “JRRT” tag.

Further, if the hyphenated form is found in OED, but the only example is from Tolkien’s work, I’m giving him credit for putting together this form as his own intentional style.

Mountain-king“,   however, has three examples, one of which is Tolkien’s and one of which comes earlier.

I would love to hear from you, Word Fans!  This is the type of art-work that has crept into what I thought would be the cut-and-dry list-making of this project.

Thanks for your notes, Word Fans – I have reached clarity.  Since the other examples of “Mountain king” do not have the hyphen (unbehyphenated?), I am giving JRRT credit for an original-ish spelling.

6 thoughts on “What shall we do with Mountain-king?

    • Sound as far as it goes, my friend, *but do we give it the JRRT tag?* This is the crux. I can argue both ways equally well about counting it as “an original JRRT spelling or use of a word”.


  1. “if the hyphenated form is not attested, I’ve given it the “JRRT” tag”

    In the examples cited in the OED, only Tolkien’s form is hyphenated. Tolkien wins.


  2. I think it’s worth examining the use of the hyphen in general, at least when it comes to forming new words. I remember something about how compounds are always hyphenated at first and then eventually people just drop it. Back in the late 90s there was a huge battle over ‘e-mail’ and the horrible ‘Web -site’ (with the capital!) Very few people ever used those but technically they were correct for a while. I am wondering if Tolkien wasn’t just very correct in these matters and hyphenated where others wouldn’t.

    As for mountain-king, I can see him hyphenating that because when he was writing, that might have been ambiguous: it’s what we’d call a noun stack today and they were quite declasse in JRRT’s era. Readers weren’t used to them: king of a mountain? A mountain that’s also a king? Noun stacks can get really bad, especially in the tech world, but we can read them as intended now where back then there was no paradigm.

    So because JRRT was a bit of a stickler, I’d be inclined to give him this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lesley, you’ve reached the same conclusion that Sharon has and that I was leaning toward, and you’ve gotten here from a quite different perspective. That lends all kinds of street-cred to our thoughts, that four good thinkers can get here by different roads. I’m convinced – and thanks for weighing in!


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