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.


2 thoughts on “Updated Hyphen Peak

  1. My son says this is cool!
    Is this a piece of evidence that the Flies & Spiders bit is a sort of story in a story, composed in a different mental space? The hyphens show that the ending was reworked with this particular stylistic as a bit of internal evidence.
    My son thinks I’m over analyzing it! Probably true.


  2. You and I are thinking along similar lines. I have a notion that the hyphenated words represent Tolkien – who puts himself in the frame narrative as “compiler” of the work – used hyphenated words often to indicate, “Well, English doesn’t have a direct translation for this Westron word, let me moosh two familiar words together so you get the gist.”

    That leads me (and Tech Support, my elder child with whom I have long rambling car-trip discussions) to think that Bilbo had lots of specific words for things in Shire culture. Picture my mother teaching me the difference between a lemon fork and an oyster fork. Then the poor lad gets to Mirkwood. “It was dark…. and black… and soggy… I got nothin’.” He had nothing but basic words to describe this totally alien landscape. Was it Corey Olsen who said that Mirkwood serves the place of Faerie in the work? Completely other, and the place where the mortals must go to earn their spurs.


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