A Few Special Words

We tagged a few other categories of words as we went along.  Remembering that while the Concordance has all 1534 uncommon words entered, I have only had chance to thoroughly examine and make special notes on the 300 which were the most interesting to me and seemed the most likely to be “archaic” or a “gem” or to fit the other ideas I was curious about.  In fact, if you search on the tag “brief”, you will find those words for which I only made a plain concordance entry.

Meanwhile, those special other tags.  There are not many of them, so I concatenated them all onto one graphic for us:

Special Words

The few blue words are tagged “British” – from Scottish, Irish, and Cumbrian.  The green graph shows us the words from outside the most frequent hundred thousand words in the Project Gutenberg corpus, tagged 100K.   I also had a few thoroughly subjective tags.  The red graph shows us words I tagged “funny” (and a few which the OED calls “jocular”), and I’ve been told that my sense of humour is flawed.  For example, I think the word “quoits” sounds funny and that “burglar” is funny for being anti-heroic.  The few delightful plum words are my personal favorites with the “gem” tag (yes, the lovely Cumbrian word “carrock” is also one of my gems). They are the words which I discovered had multiple meanings and nuanced connotations which all contribute to Tolkien’s elegant storycraft.


“Glower” in its Scottish regional meaning means simply to stare intently, sometimes with an air of surprise.  In its second meaning, and this is how I’ve always understood it, to glower is to stare angrily (or if one is the weather, to have an appearance of darkness or gloominess).

The etymology of the word is obscure, bless it, and may have to do with the second meaning of the verb “glow” which is to stare.  Or it could be from “glore” which is to stare fixedly in its second meaning (first meaning, to shine.  Now a whole new exploration of words that means both to emit light and to perceive it presents itself).  “Glore” is related to “glare” and probably is related to the Old Icelandic “glóra” – to gleam and glare as the eyes of a cat!  Aha! and cat eyes seem to give light as they reflect it as well as to see all.  We may have it!

If the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset – my goodness.  Those mountains are west of them, the Misty Mountains which they have just left behind.  Are they glowing, limned with sunset light?  Are they dark?  Are they anthropomorphically expressing anger, as Caradhras will in a later novel?  All these things together?

“Glower” has just been upgraded to a gem word!

  • 07.132 and the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset

“glore, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glower, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.


Oho!  This is a Scottish word and has earned the “British” tag!

The word occurs in the northern (not in the midland) version of the Cursor Mundi. It has recently been often used in general literature, but is still regarded as properly Scotch.

  • 08.038 but it sounded eerie

“eerie | eery, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 27 July 2015.


Not Scottish but Irish in origin, I gave it the Scottish tag temporarily as “from within the United Kingdom, but alien”.  It means, of course, “little smithers”, particles or atoms, and has not been observed as a singular in the wild.

  • 12.101 in a jumble of smithereens,

“smithereens, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 1 June 2015.

“ˈsmithers, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 1 June 2015.


This word is not in the Hundred Thousand either in its plain nor its inflected form as we have in Chapter 2.  Observe with me that being outside of the most common hundred thousand words of Project Gutenberg does not make a word unknown.  Just infrequent.  Google’s Ngram viewer gives us “bash” as rising exponentially in use after 1960, outside of the time that works qualify for inclusion in Project Gutenberg.  Did Tolkien contribute to the fame of the word?

  • 02.080 and bashes to remember)

“bash, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 1 June 2015.


The Cumbrian word “carrec” = “rock”.  Cumbrian was spoken between 500 and 1000 CE north and a bit east of Wales and is closely related to Welsh.  Elements of the Cumbric language can be found place names and family names, which we know Tolkien loved to study.

Word fans, like any good scholar I use Wikipedia only as a place to get the right keywords for deeper searches (or to answer simple everyday questions like “what is earwax?”).  Today, I am stumped for further sources and must give you what I have until a later day – a day when my Cumbric language and cultural history skills have a boost.  Comments with leads and clues are very welcome, and I will be carefully sifting my Philology class notes.

Here’s what we know:  Carrock Fell is a high ground in the lake district of Britain.  This fell is unusually rocky, geologically distinct from neighboring landmarks, topped by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, and was climbed by Charles Dickens.

Castle Carrock is a village about five miles away which hosts the Music on the Mar festival and boasts a newly re-opened pub.  The village newsletter is available on the web, and I know what destination vacation has been added to my bucket list!

I have added the tag “British” to this word meaning British-not-English and wish a good morning to the kind folk of Castle Carrock.

  • 07.012 the Carrock I believe he calls it.
  • 07.015 And why is it called the Carrock?’
  • 07.016 He called it the Carrock,
  • 07.016 because carrock is his word for it.
  • 07.016 He calls things like that carrocks,
  • 07.016 and this one is the Carrock
  • 07.023 on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon
  • 07.089 and of how they had all been brought to the Carrock,
  • 07.117 I followed these as far as the Carrock.
  • 07.117 to get from this bank to the Carrock by the ford,
  • 07.130 that joined the great river miles south of the Carrock.
  • 07.130 North of the Carrock
  • 07.130 for at a place a few days’ ride due north of the Carrock
  • 07.131 for a hundred miles north of the Carrock
  • 07.142 when we landed on the Carrock,’

“Castle Carrock Cumbrian Village.” N.p., n.d. Web.

“Carrock Fell.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 June 2015.


Uncanny – in meaning 4 “not to be trusted as being associated with supernatural arts or powers” – made perfect sense as the opposite of canny – “wise and safe and to be trusted.”  Gandalf is both uncanny and canny in these senses, as he is wise and eminently trustable and good.  This word is a Scottish regionalism and here I am eating another slice of humble pie, as the word is used not for low effect but by painting the picture with mystery and magic, to heighten the passages.

  • 04.002 for the echoes were uncanny,
  • 06.065 and uncanny fire.
  • 08.006 in the enormous uncanny darkness.

“unˈcanny, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 20 May 2015.