dialect in novels

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 2 01:04:38 UTC 2001

In a message dated 03/01/2001 9:52:01 AM Eastern Standard Time,
douglas at NB.NET writes:

> [And why did my astrophysics professor correct my paper, replacing "white
>  dwarves" with "white dwarfs"? Specialized usage, I guess.]

"...[in _Lord of the RIngs_] as in _The Hobbit_ the form _dwarves_ is used,
although the dictionaries tell us that the plural of _dwarf_ is _dwarfs_.  It
should be _dwarrows_ (or _dwerrows_), if singular and plural had each gone
its own way down the years, as have _man_ and _men_, or _goose_ and _geese_.
But we no longer speak of a dwarf as often as we do of a man, or even of a
goose, and memories have not been fresh enough among Men to keep hold of a
special plural for a race now abandoned to folk-tales...But in the Third Age
something of their old character and power is still glimpsed...It is to mark
this that I have ventured to use the form _dwarves_, and so remove them a
little, perhaps, from the sillier tales of these latter days.  _Dwarrows_
would have been better, but I have used that form only in the name
_Dwarrowdelf_, to represent the name of Moria in the Common Speech:
_Phurunargian_.  For that meant "Dwarf-delving" and yet was already a word of
antique form."

[J. R. R. Tolkien _The Lord of the Rings, volume III, The Return of the King_
Appendix F, pp. 518f of the Ballantine paperback edition.]

The rule may be arbitrary but it is unambigous.  When referring to people (or
objects) in the real world, the plural is "dwarfs".  "Dwarves" (as in "Snow
Whie and the Seven Dwarves") is used only in fantasy.

                           - Jim Landau

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