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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Attercop, Attercercop - as a kid who read The Hobbit I had know idea


Feb 12 2017, 4:37pm

Post #1 of 6 (1082 views)
Attercop, Attercercop - as a kid who read The Hobbit I had know idea Can't Post

what attercop meant other than just a rhyming nonsense word - but of course when the extent of JRRT's careful selection of each word used was learned it immediately brings up Anglo-Saxon or other studied languages.

Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can’t see me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Won't you stop,
Stop your spinning and look for me!

Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
Old Tomnoddy can’t spy me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Down you drop!
You'll never catch me up your tree!

Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
are weaving webs to wind me.
I am far more sweet than other meat,
but still they cannot find me!

Here am I, naughty little fly;
you are fat and lazy.
You cannot trap me, though you try,
in your cobwebs crazy.

J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit "Flies and Spiders"


20 Brilliant Anglo-Saxon Words


First recorded in a medical textbook dating from the 11th century, attercoppe was the Old English word for a spider; it literally means “poison head.” The word remained in use in English right through to the 1600s, but only survives today as attercop or attercap in a handful of British English dialects.

In regard to tomnoddy"

Oxford English Dictionary -
Definition of tomnoddy
chiefly Scottish : atlantic puffin
: fool, dunce, noddy (the usage in the poem)

For crazy "cob" we get:

2 a dialectal, England : a rounded mass, lump, or heap

Crazy mass or lump

Of course, now it makes sense why we call spider webs "cob" webs. I wonder if the "p" in cop became a "b" over time,

For lazy "lob" we get

Late 16th century (in the senses ‘cause or allow to hang heavily’ and ‘behave like a lout’): from the archaic noun lob ‘lout’, ‘pendulous object’, probably from Low German or Dutch (compare with modern Dutch lubbe hanging lip).


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Feb 12 2017, 4:40pm)


Feb 12 2017, 7:19pm

Post #2 of 6 (1055 views)
There's Shelob too. [In reply to] Can't Post

I certainly didn't pick up the clue hiding in plain sight in Shelob's name either. But Tolkien mentions in a letter to Christopher what the name means:

Do you think Shelob is a good name for a monstrous spider creature? It is of course only 'she + lob' (= spider), but written as one it seems to be quite noisome...

- Letter to Christopher Tolkien, 21 May 1944
So I think in fact all three of Bilbo's words actually just mean 'spider' - as you guess, 'cob' as in 'cobweb' seems to be a shortening of 'attercop' with the final consonant voiced. And 'lob' according to Tolkien himself, also means spider. And who's going to argue with the great philologist, OED contributor and Anglo-Saxon scholar?

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


Feb 12 2017, 7:24pm

Post #3 of 6 (1054 views)
Good catch...now it looks obvious! [In reply to] Can't Post



Feb 13 2017, 3:31pm

Post #4 of 6 (1016 views)
"...I had NO idea"..... ugh [In reply to] Can't Post


Na Vedui

Feb 17 2017, 8:42pm

Post #5 of 6 (955 views)
There's an interesting article [In reply to] Can't Post

here http://lingwe.blogspot.co.uk/...ops-of-mirkwood.html
about "attercop" - and a few other things of that sort. The comments on it have some interesting stuff too.
There's "prif copyn" for spider in modern Welsh, where the "cop" is actually a borrowing from Old English. Another Welsh word for spider , "corryn" gets a mention in the article. Intriguingly, there's a linguistic link between spiders and Dwarves.


Feb 19 2017, 6:26am

Post #6 of 6 (924 views)
It certainly shows that philology is a fascinating area of study [In reply to] Can't Post

for those with A: a knack for learning languages, B: are a good detective, C: have an affinity for learning anthropology/cultural history and D: have a lot of time to ponder and research.


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