plural of dwarf (was: dialect in novels)

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Wed Mar 7 16:31:06 UTC 2001

"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> writes:

     [I said:]
>It was coined by J.R.R.Tolkien as an alternative to "dwarfs", the only
>plural in Modern English at the time ...

I don't think Tolkien claimed to have invented this plural. He only claimed
that it wasn't in his dictionaries. It still isn't in my OED, but it's in
my 1952 Merriam-Webster "New International (2nd Ed.)", which I think is
virtually the same as the 1934 edition (of which I can't find a copy ...
can anybody verify or refute this?). Tolkien first published "The Hobbit"
in 1937, I think. Tolkien was born in 1892, I think.

"Dwarves" is certainly a minority plural, and it may have been less common
before the Tolkien craze (1960's?). But it wasn't so uncommon that we can't
find multiple examples far too early for any influence from Tolkien.

     [three excellent antedates]

Well, the data seems to be here. Thanks!

[Incidentally, I find that the Stedman's medical dictionary shows as a
synonym for the condition known as geroderm[i]a osteodysplastica (or
Bamatter syndrome) ... "Walt Disney dwarfism"!]

Gaah! ... I suppose, from the greco-latin and cinematic names, that people
with this disorder are not only abnormally short in stature but also have
prematurely wrinkled skin, thus resembling Happy, Grumpy, Horny... no, wait
a minute... well, the rest of Disney's dwarfs, long before they reach old

-- Mark

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