Thank you, Tech Support

My very dear Tech Support has added a new tool to the Digital Humanities Toolkit (which is also linked on our About page).  It is and it will grab your choice of a number of words from a given text file as randomly as a computer can grab and present them on your Terminal window along with the ordinal number of that word in the text.  It will grab numbers as though they are words, but it will not grab things inside of square brackets (like our paragraph references) or double-x (like our phrase separator).  It’s a short little bit of code, so I simply copy/pasted it from github to a text file and named it  Seems to have worked.

Thank you to Daroc Alden, who always has the time to write a little script for their Mama, even during mid-terms.

Inspired by Richard E. Blackwelder

Richard Blackwelder, Tolkien scholar and entomologist (insect-scientist, not etymologist) and relation of my wife,  gave us a copy of his book The Tolkien Thesaurus and some adjunct materials as a wedding gift with wishes for a happy life of book-loving together.  In the introduction to that work, he himself describes it as “a concordance” of The Lord of the Rings (the title Thesaurus baffles me), and he wrote thousands and thousands of lemmatized concordance-style entries with book and page number and enough of a phrase that a reader with just a word or two of a quotation that is tickling their memory can find the full passage easily.

Now we have Kindle and other electronic formats; we can solve in seconds the problem which Blackwelder put so many years into solving in the 1980s.  How can I carry on Blackwelder’s inspiring work?  In his companion work Tolkien Phraseology, he writes:

Among the 40,000 or so passages quoted in the Thesaurus itself there are ones of great beauty and ones that speak only of filth and darkness, ones that bring us victorious action or ones taken from folk-songs, ones representing a wide variety of poetic forms or ones conveying only some slangy command.

We may assume that a reader is following the story and the characters and may sometimes fail to notice the unusual words, phrases, or even passages.  Some appear on re-reading, but the compiler has found that many slip by repeatedly and appear only when the sentences are analyzed and the individual words singled out.

His short list of “unusual words, phrases, and passages” from The Lord of the Rings is only a list, without analysis.  This project was born: we will find the unusual words of The Hobbit and, by learning more about these words and how Tolkien uses them, become better readers of the work.

Blackwelder, Richard E. A Tolkien Thesaurus Garland Publishing, New York, 1990.

Blackwelder, Richard E. Tolkien Phraseology: A Companion to A Tolkien Thesaurus Tolkien Archives Fund, Marquette University, 1990.

Good Morning!

And I mean it!

The Tolkien Professor has suggested that I record the pleasing patterns of wonderful words in The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.  The story sings because the words dance.  Come dance with them!

On this adventure, we use this edition of the work:

Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Hobbit: 75th Anniversary Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

We begin by saying Thank you:

  • Corey Olsen, president of Signum University and my thesis advisor.
  • Robin Reid, for advice on fair use and assistance with using the text.
  • John Rateliff, for assistance with the 1937 text.
  • Doug Anderson, for advice on paragraph enumeration.
  • Daroc Alden, coder and data-moosher.
  • Grace Alden, my wife.