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?
Usually when I come across a mainstream journalistic critical article about Tolkien, it’s time to sigh deeply and sort through everything they got wrong. So I was pleased to see Konstantin Kakaes on The Lord of the Rings in Slate yesterday, because Kakaes gets it.
I seem to spend a lot of space here apologising for, or complaining about, my lack of time, though the first half of this year seems to have been worse than usual (hopefully culminating in June). My available time seems unlikely to change much, so the reduced commentary this month is likely to stay the norm, at least for a while.
or, what Tolkien was doing when you weren’t paying attention.
I’ve been keeping an annotated bibliography of the Inklings in fiction, that is, their appearances as characters in stories by other writers. Many of these novels and stories I’ve read. For some of those I had not, the descriptions were sketchy and uninformed. I decided to correct this and read three of those I could easily get. I put succinct summaries in my annotations, but now I’m going to describe them in more detail here. I read these so you don’t have to, though one I’d recommend anyway. Call that one the good; the others are the bad and the ugly. Let’s start with those and end with the palate-cleanser.