In regard to my critique of an article on Tolkien, various posters in the comments section are trying to convince me that “fight” is a perfectly reasonable term to describe the ornate and scholarly word contest that Gandalf and Saruman have in Tolkien’s book.
Among them is the author of the article, who points out that “argument” is used to define “fight” in his dictionary. Leaving aside the fact that even “argument” is not really the best choice of word to describe the scene, it’s a fallacy to say that a word used to define another word in the dictionary must have exactly the same meaning. More likely, they overlap over parts of their meanings. It’s true that I can find “argument” used to define “fight” in a dictionary, but in the same dictionary I find “debate” used to define “argument” and “discussion” used to define “debate,” and by that point, I think, we’ve left “fight” far behind, so I don’t think much of the dictionary-definition shuffle as a method of shifting your word’s meaning.
“Fight” is especially ill-chosen to describe the scene in the book when it’s a perfect term to describe the absurd wizard-fu battle in the movie. It makes it look as if you’re remembering the movie instead of the book. And when, of all the possible words to describe that scene in the book, you choose this one, is leads inevitably to the conclusion that the movie has affected your memory of the book.
What do you think?
David Bratman is co-editor of Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review, and former editor of Mythprint, the bulletin of The Mythopoeic Society. He likes to write about Tolkienian biography and bibliography.