"fairy," OED 4a

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jan 18 14:44:12 UTC 2007

I can't add anything to Doug's analysis.  Tolkien's larger point was that _fairy_ (as a creature) is rare in writing before the 17th C.


"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
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Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
Subject: Re: "fairy," OED 4a

>But by saying he is "of faerie," couldn't that also mean he was of the
>faerie people or of the faerie, using faerie as a race or type of creature
>and not a place name?

It is possible, I think. In this case, the citation should be under sense
2: "A collective term for the fays or inhabitants of fairyland ....".

However, I think it seems superficially likely that the citation with "of
faerie" exemplifies sense 1: "The land or home of the fays; fairy-land.
.... see FAERIE."

Or it might could go well under "faerie", sense 1: "The realm or world of
the fays or fairies;fairyland, fairydom (cf. FAIRY _sb._ 1)." It would be
by far the earliest example here.

In the case of an abstract or imaginary "place" such as Faerie, it may be
particularly difficult to perfectly distinguish these senses, I think. For
comparison, it is not hard to find discussions of whether Hell is a place
or a condition.

As they say about changelings: "You can take the child out of Faerie, but
you can't take Faerie out of the child." (^_^)

[I use my poor-man's photoreduced OED. I do not have a copy of the Gower
work handy.]

But -- IMHO -- it would seem that ... if the passage really does have "of
faerie" ... (1) it should read "of" in the OED and not "a"; and (2) it
probably should not appear under sense 4, which refers to the individual
fairy ("One of a class ...").

I wonder whether there were different editions or versions of the source work.

-- Doug Wilson

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