My goodness! A barely-used word – we’re approaching those words which are only used once! For a book about a long journey afoot, I am caught off guard!

• 1.065 Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
• 11.018 and tread on my beard,


I ran into one of those interesting editor choices this morning. Is “clothe” to be included with “cloth”? I did, and I’m glad of it, and while there’s no robustness to this small sample, nevertheless I see that cloth and clothing trace the fortunes of the company for many chapters.

• 1.002 wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes),
• 1.065 Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
• 1.070 in a green cloth.
• 2.029 into the dry clothes
• 2.037 and wet clothes all the night.
• 2.080 with his clothes
• 2.113 There were lots of clothes, too,
• 3.034 Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises,
• 4.013 to dry their clothes,
• 6.022 he said sadly looking at his torn clothes.
• 7.014 Then they took off their clothes
• 7.034 He was clothed
• 7.093 One bore a white cloth embroidered at the edges
• 9.062 and ragged clothes clinging to him cold
• 10.020 in spite of his torn clothes
• 10.038 in fine cloth of their proper colours,


A nice, even common word!

• 1.065 Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
• 2.065 me throat cut
• 4.041 It made no trouble whatever of cutting through the goblin-chains
• 6.034 quite a short cut.
• 6.062 cutting down trees,
• 6.063 or cut them down.
• 6.099 or cutting up meat,
• 7.131 and scour all the edge of the forest so as to cut you off,
• 8.075 and he had time to cut his legs loose.
• 8.105 If he cut the string which hung him up,
• 8.106 He managed by leaning over to cut
• 8.107 he had to cut most of it off.
• 8.111 and cutting at the threads with their knives.
• 9.018 the roof had been cut away
• 10.010 First of all a barrel was cut loose by Bilbo
• 13.019 cut
• 13.043 cut out of the living rock broad
• 14.009 Cut the bridges!


For a common words, it’s used sparingly, so we can’t say anything robust about its absence from some of the Chapters – but it is in Gollum’s chapter and not Smaug’s?? Fascinating.

• 1.064 Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
• 2.080 (and two with burns
• 3.013 They were burning bright
• 3.040 and the burned banks of the bright River Running.
• 4.036 The sparks were burning holes
• 4.041 It burned with a rage that made it gleam
• 5.101 the light of his eyes burned with a pale flame.
• 6.065 and burned into them,
• 6.065 while those that were burning were running about howling
• 6.077 Burn, burn tree and fern!
• 6.077 Burn, burn tree and fern!
• 6.083 and the burning,
• 6.085 Soon the light of the burning was faint below,
• 7.045 Though it was summer there was a wood-fire burning
• 7.106 The fire burned low
• 7.122 From the burnt wolf-glade
• 7.122 and also because of the burning
• 8.048 and fires burning on the ground;
• 8.054 and fires were burning under the trees,
• 10.035 The lakes shall shine and burn,
• 13.044 and half burnt.
• 14.013 and their shafts fell back kindled by his breath burning
• 14.016 and burned down to the surface of the lake.
• 14.018 that held their ground among the burning houses.
• 17.038 burned
• 18.001 but his head burned with fire.
• 19.004 The stars are all burning!

My luck would run ill, I fear, if I left out a few words: “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!” 


The OED tells us that it’s probably an imitative word, so hooray! We are adding a common sound-play word to our beautiful word-hoard!

• 1.064 Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
• 4.005 where they smashed among the trees far below,
• 4.020 Clash, crash! Crush, smash!
• 4.022 and the crush, smash!
• 12.091 and if we are smashed with it the better he will like it.’
• 12.101 smashing wall
• 13.002 I think I would rather be smashed by Smaug
• 13.057 since the dragon smashed the magic door,
• 14.001 when he smashed the door
• 14.015 and smashed down.
• 15.003 when Smaug smashed the mountain-side,

“smash, v.1.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2019, Accessed 19 August 2019.


Now here’s a word which, to our shame, is common. It is used sparingly in The Hobbit, and I notice a fascinating pattern. After Chapter eight, the word disappears from the story – until the Battle of Five Armies. I assume from its use that Bilbo hated all the other battles, but the word is not used until that last one. The battles between those who later became allies are not about hate. The battles are fought for gold, power, envy, jealousy, revenge… but not for hate. I leave the philosophical ramifications of this one as an exercise for the reader.

• 1.067 That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
• 3.040 he hated dragons
• 4.025 They did not hate dwarves especially,
• 4.025 no more than they hated everybody
• 4.033 They hated it
• 4.033 and hated worse any one that carried it.
• 4.041 and hated it worse than Biter if possible.
• 5.009 hating to go on,
• 5.131 We hates it,
• 5.131 we hates it,
• 5.131 we hates it for ever!’
• 6.068 The goblins hated the eagles
• 8.004 before they grew to hate the forest
• 8.004 as heartily as they had hated the tunnels of the goblins,
• 17.049 and the one which at the time he hated most –


Many of the words in “What the dwarves started to sing” are food words, so we will be able to trot through this group of words in a spritely manner. I love the rough singing by rough dwarves who are no less such master craftsmen that they have the dexterity to toss crockery about the room with chipping a single plate.

This word is used infrequently, and I see no pattern in its use.

• 1.064 Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
• 2.030 and willows along its banks bent
• 3.027 who was bent almost on to his hands
• 4.025 and the bent swords that they use.
• 6.046 and bent,
• 7.069 and bending
• 7.101 The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
• 8.029 As soon as they had landed he had bent his bow
• 9.039 and were bent on returning as soon as they could.
• 11.019 and the steel heads broke or bent like lead.
• 14.018 He bent his bow for the last time.
• 14.025 It twisted the white fog into bending pillars
• 16.017 At last he came to the bend