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Author Topic: Name Connotations
Roll of Honor Meneldil
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I've thought about this for a while.

Tolkien's name often seemed to have connotations relating to the character.
The most apparent one being Grimá Wormtongue.
quote:
"...by the counsel of Grimá, of him that all save you name the Wormtongue?"
Everyone else called him the Wormtongue, and this doesn't sound complimentary, but even Theodon called him Grimá, which doesn't exactly make him sound like a nice person.

Also there Elessar, I don't think anybody could associate bad things with the name Elessar just by the sound of it.

Then look at Morgoth/Melkor, Neither of these names sound very inviting or pleasant.

What are other peoples' thoughts on this, why did Tolkien do this?

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Kjartan Fløgelfrikk
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I agree with you, Tolkien being the language expert he was, often knew what words fit best as names for the characters. I don't think anything language-connected (in this case names) is purely incidental.
BTW, Gríma means mask... a name fitting such a traitor!

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
I'll drink to that.

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Gimli son of Glóin
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Just look at the orcs who are named in LoTR: Grishnákh, Uglúk, Gorbag, etc. These names are quite "dirty" sounding. They all have rather hard sounds to them. Whereas Legolas, Galadriel, Gandalf, Frodo, Boromir, Faramir, (the list goes on and on) have pleasant sounding names with softer consonant sounds.

*Means no offense to anyone out there with those orc names as their actual names.* []

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Edhelwen of Imladris
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David Day talks quite a bit about this in "The Hobbit Companion" and it's really fascinating - how "Baggins" is connected to "bagman" (a thief) and also to words like "bag" (one meaning of which is to seize something - and another of which is to be left to suffer the consequences of some act) and "bagatelle", meaning something of little importance, etc. And of course the root of "Peregrine", I believe, is "traveler". It is amazing to think of the amount of detail - detail that many readers would likely miss - Tolkien put into these stories.
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Glóin the Dark
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Even among the ordinary Hobbit names, a name like "Lotho" seems to have a nasty ring to it, by comparison with "Frodo" and "Bingo" and "Largo", etc. I wonder to what extent the seemingly less attractive sound of this, and other names, is due to our knowledge of their owners' characters, and to what extent the names are intrinsically unappealing. It is possible that a certain unappealing aspect of certain names comes from their sounding like particular words: "Lotho", for example, might remind the reader (however subconsciously) of words like "loathe" and "sloth", "Gríma" sounds rather grimy. I suppose one might also suggest that "Frodo" sounds like a fraud, or "Aragorn" arrogant - but then neither of those two is anywhere near as convincing as the suggestion that "Sauron" sounds sour, or "Mordor" like murder. It would be interesting to know how a name like "Gríma" or "Sauron" comes across to those who are not native English speakers. Maybe there's a language in which "Gríma" means "beautiful". []

Would "Sauron" seem like a more pleasant name if it had been given to - say - Elrond? It's hard to imagine "Gorthaur" being a 'nice' name. What are the phonetic characteristics of a nasty name?

Oh, yes, "Melkor"! I've often wondered about this name, because it - to me - has always seemed nastier than "Morgoth". And yet, the way they are used in the tale, "Melkor" seems to get the better deal. "Melkor" he is in the beginning, as the mightiest of the Ainur, and yet, as the Dark Lord, is called "Morgoth". Somehow, "Morgoth" seems 'softer'. It reminds me of soot...

Rambling drunkenly... []

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Dark Lord Andúril
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Hmm. Well the Elvish language was said to always be the most beautiful words. In contrast to this is the orkish language which had "no beauty" in itself.
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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I am not a native English speaker, but to me, "Sauron" and "Gríma" definitely sound unpleasant too, and all the other names mentioned so far in the thread.

[ 06-05-2003, 01:24 PM: Message edited by: Herendil ]

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Arda
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It's just curious... grima is an Spanish word for a kind of revulsion.
So, "dar grima" means "to set one's teeth on edge".
Very suitable for Wormtongue, I guess.

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Kjartan Fløgelfrikk
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In norwegian (and german too, i believe), grim means ugly, foul.
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Roll of Honor Celebrían
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Once I did a study for Imbëar on Melkor. Tolkien would have been familiar from Catholic upbringing with "Melek", which shows up in Chaldean language and the Tanak meaning "king"- Melchizedek (king of Salem) and in tradition, Melchior (one of the traditional names of the star-watcher/kings who noticed the star of Bethlehem), and with Molek/Molech, the Ammonite deity that was fed live babies as sacrifice.
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Roll of Honor Éomer
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I must say, though, "Bauglir," Morgoth's other name, certainly has a nasty sound to it...
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ConfusionStar
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"Loth" in Lothlorien might remind the reader of "sloth," as suggested by Gloin (though as a hobbit name).

To me, Melkor always had the connotation of someone ambigious, who might yet do evil or good, although it certainly does not sound very inviting. It can be interpreted a different way, however; the word Melkor sounds somewhat similar to "melt" and "core," allowing the reader to see that this character's inner self, the core, is filled with a melting fire; or that the character's heart is being liquified as the book goes on. Morgoth sounds like, well, Gothmog. It's as if his name was transformed into the Orcish language.

Elessar sounds like, well, "star."

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cian
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Just to toss in ~ we might keep in mind Tolkien's process of invention (the Elvish tongues for good example), and the device of translation, as seen, for example with the use of Anglo-Saxon regarding the names and speech of the Eorlingas.

Tolkien devised very very many names out of his invented Elvish tongues, which reflected his personal (and changing) linguistic 'aesthetic' or taste. There are bound to be chance 'similarities' considering the very many 'real world' languages out there. The Prof explains (in Letters) that any source _if any_ provided solely the sound sequence, or suggestions for its stimulus -- and its purport in the source is totally irrelevant except in the case of Earendil.

Example: Tolkien alluded to a 'casual echo' of Soria Moria Castle, gleaned from some tale that had no interest for him ~ but he liked the sound sequence, it alliterated with 'mines' and it connected with MOR in the linguistic construction ~ and he could invent a history for a name meaning 'Black Chasm' within his story.

Anyone looking at 'Moria' might fall randomly upon 'Moriah' ~ someone did, to which Tolkien replied:

As for the 'land of Moríah' (note stress): that has no connexion (even 'externally') whatsoever. Internally there is no conceivable connexion between the mining of the Dwarves, and the story of Abraham. I utterly repudiate any such significances and symbolisms. My mind does not work that way; and (in my view) you are led astray by a purely fortuitous similarity, more obvious in spelling than in speech, which cannot be justified from the real intended significance of my story.' ~JRRT

¤

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Roll of Honor Aoife
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I've played this name game with my sibs and my husband--"what does name X make you think of?" For me, Melkor sounds like a strong name, someone who is single minded and stubborn. Morgoth sounds somehow darker and weaker to me, like the name of a skulker.

I think sounds have innate meaning (aside from their etymology), which is why most of us think grishnakh sounds bad but nimrodel sounds good. Onomatopoeia taken to the next level, I guess.

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Roll of Honor Lassë
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quote:
It would be interesting to know how a name like "Gríma" or "Sauron" comes across to those who are not native English speakers.
In Danish there's a really common name that is spelled Søren, and pronounced almost exactly like Sauron -- Søren is the name of 2 of my close friends and my boyfriend, so I don't think the sound of the word has bad connotations at all. Now that I think of it, I actually think Sauron sounds really nice []

Grim(a) means 'ugly' in Danish too, but the English word Grim is probably closer to what Tolkien had in mind...

EDIT:
and btw, to me Melkor sounds a lot like the hebrew name Melchior, so I actually think Melkor sounds a bit classy, ancient and cool *lol* -- Ok, I'll stop now, before I start arguing that Gollum sounds beautiful in Danish []

[ 06-13-2003, 11:28 AM: Message edited by: Lassë ]

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Roll of Honor Herendil
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Lassë, you know that Sauron is pronounced 'sow-ron', don't you? []
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Roll of Honor Deraj the Plaid
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Herendil, I'm afraid that I too have been guilty of mispronouncing Sauron's name. I pronounced it "Sor-uhn" until I saw the first movie and enough people told me different!

Maybe it's because I'm from Mississippi. []

I agree with the rest of you that Tolkien was a master with names. As far as matching a name with the picture he painted with words of a particular character, I think he was most successful with Bombadil.

I'm convinced he could not have had any other name! I've actually found myself thinking that someone is "Bombadilish" if they happen to be a little on the ridiculously jolly/mysterious side. []

[ 06-15-2003, 08:43 AM: Message edited by: Deraj the Plaid ]

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Dark Lord Andúril
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I used to pronounce it Sore-on before seeing the films.
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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Lassë?
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Snöwdog
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I suppose the pronunciation of names would vary from where in the world you come from and what language is one's first language.

As for Tolkien using harsher sounding names for evil, it makes sense, especially in a profound good vs evil world where there is little grey areas between them

quote:
*Means no offense to anyone out there with those orc names as their actual names.* []
[] [] []
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Aiwrendel
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There is information about Tolkien's choices of pronunciations in LotR Appendix E.
quote:

The Westron or Common Speech has been entirely translated into English equivalents. All Hobbit names and special words are intended to be pronounced accordingly: for example,

example, Bolger has g as in bulge, and mathom rhymes with fathom.
In transcribing the ancient scripts I have tried to represent the original sounds (so far as they can be determined) with fair accuracy, and at the same time to produce words and names that do not look uncouth in modern letters. The High-elven Quenya has been spelt as much like Latin as its sounds allowed. For this reason c has been preferred to k m both Eldarin languages.
The following points may be observed by those who are interested in such details.

CONSONANTS

C

has always the value of k even before e and i: celeb - Silver - should be pronounced as keleb.

etc.
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The Flammifer
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After many readings and not paying proper attention to the appendices I’ve always (in my head) pronounced most names with the “S” sound.

(S)Celeborn – should be pronounced “Keleborn”.
Celebrant – “Kelebrant”
Celebrían – “Kelebrían”
Celebrimbor – “Kelebrimbor”
Cerin Amroth – “Kerin Amroth”
Círdan- “Kírdan”
Cirith Ungol – “Kirith Ungol”

An exception might be “Ceorl” where the “K” sound seems to fit better than the “S” sound, although I can’t say exactly why.

The “K” pronunciation, to me, gives the names a harsher sound; whereas the “S” pronunciation gives the names a softer more pleasant sound. (But that’s just me – anyone else?)
So it seems “Celebrimbor” will always be “Selebrimbor” to me even though I know it’s wrong… []

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Hamfast Gamgee
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It's the same in old Celtic or Anglo-Saxon, apparently!
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