OED says that this use of “gruesome” is literary and dialectical, so I am adding the “archaic” tag.  To “grue” is to shudder or feel such horror that you shudder – a northern, Scottish, dialectical verb.

  • 03.031 and even gruesome,

“grue, v.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.

“gruesome, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.


The meaning “spider” has been attested since the 1600s, but the OED conjectures that it is a back formation from “Cobweb”, with roots meaning “grab” ultimately the same as the slang word “cop” for “police officer”.

  • 08.100 Lazy Lob and crazy Cob

“† cob, n.4.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2015. Web. 4 October 2015.


  • 01.036 which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

It must take a great deal of planning to work in all of one’s Hobbit meals.  If supper is some time after 8PM, I imagine that after-supper morsel would be what I call a bedtime snack.

Update 2017.09.05 – I was delightfully mistaken: after-supper is a proper name for a time of day, and OED says archaic.  I am reminded of another very important time of day.

“after-supper, n. and adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017. Web. 5 September 2017.

Hunger and Archaism

Word fans, did you see what I saw?

The food words generally decrease over the course of the book.  We predicted that.    If we read the dip in Chapter 1 as an abundance of common food words and the spike in chapter 6 as a spike in thinking about food they weren’t getting, it’s a trend.

2015.07.01 Food Word Graph with words

Then there was the archaic word graph, which broadly rises.

2015.06.17 Archaism Alone

What if we were to flip over the food word graph?  I suppose we could call it a hunger graph.

2015.07.02  Flipped Food

And then if we put those graphs on top of one another…

2015.07.02  Flipped Food and Archaism

We could, if we squint hard, call those matching trajectories.  If you had asked me last week if I had a prediction about this, I would probably have said, “Sure, as food and comfort go down across the book, archaism and lofty things increase, I’ll put a nickel on that.”  What piques my curiosity this morning?  Where and why these lines diverge from the predicted pattern.

Chapter 1?  I believe that’s a straightforward “many food words here are common” phenomenon and that the beginning and end of the chapter are my guides for where to think of the blue line.

Chapter 4?  Oh, yes.  Goblins.  No archaic words at all.  All current-use.  And food?  No.  Goblins do not serve tea.  Or supper.  Or even cram.  Modern words, no manners.  Uncouth, uncultured, ignorant.

Chapter 6 I chalk up to another measurement anomaly – the blue line shows us words about foods which the company is not eating.

But oh, yes, the beginning of Chapter 9.  Archaic words and food (remember, the blue line going down means hunger goes away).  Bilbo embraced being a hero and we enter Thranduil’s realm.  Spiders talked about food, elves treated their prisoners humanely.  In fact,

[08.144] … They gave [Thorin] food and drink, plenty of both, if not very fine; for Wood-elves were not goblins, and were reasonably well-behaved even to their worst enemies,

Goblins are the contrast to elves? Many scholars more learned than I have held forth on this topic.  I present this little lexomic morsel to nourish the discussion.

Presenting: the Archaic Words

Next we take a look at the words we tagged “archaic”.  You’ll recall that we used this tag for any word labeled “obsolete” or “archaic” or “rare” or “regional” by the OED.

2015.06.15 Archaic & Uncommon Graph

Our first little peak occurs in the troll scene.  Hmm.  In that scene we have “canny” and “booby” tagged “archaic”, but that’s all.  Shall we think of this region as right between the Tra-la-la-lally elves and Rivendell?  It might be best if we do.

Low points for  goblins and wargs, I’m pleased to see, and a high point for the game of great antiquity!  I like that we have a peak once in the Elvenking’s halls, and am delighted that the exact phrase is at the start of the daring rescue.  Aside from Thranduil’s caverns, the incidence of archaic words grows simply from wargs through the climax at [18.017].  What are those particular words?

[18.017] ‘Farewell, good thief,’ he said. ‘I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate.’
[18.018] Bilbo knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. ‘Farewell, King under the Mountain!’ he said. ‘This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils – that has been more than any Baggins deserves.’
[18.019] ‘No!’ said Thorin. ‘There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!’

The only “archaic” tagged words in this passage are “merrier” and “merry”, and they qualified only under the technicalities of obsolete meanings of “enjoyable”. While the passage does not hold much in the way of archaisms, archaic words surround the passage like a chalice lifting it up – to be read carefully, sipped delicately, never forgotten.


“Firework”, singular, is outside of The Hundred Thousand.  OED tells us that in its meaning as “a pyrotechnic display” although the plural “fireworks” only is used now, the singular used to be used.  Most instances in The Hobbit are of “fireworks” except one.  The uninflected form could be the older form for the meaning just cited – or could be the form indicating other, obsolete meanings of “firework” (work done in fire, a furnace, and others).  Of course… Tolkien uses it in paragraph 01.091 adjectivally, to describe the glare of the blue light on Gandalf’s staff.  OED admits of no adjectival uses, except as the first element in some hyphenated word phrases.  The word we know is tweaked so very gently off the rails – we can take nothing for granted, yet we do not know consciously that we have been alerted.  Absolutely elegant.

  • 01.017 such particularly excellent fireworks!
  • 01.018 You seem to remember my fireworks kindly,
  • 01.092 in its firework glare
  • 06.030 (even the hobbit had never forgotten the magic fireworks
  • 07.083 I would have given them more than fireworks!’
  • 14.013 No fireworks you ever imagined equalled the sights that night.

“ˈfire-work | ˈfirework, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 5 June 2015.