|When Is A Hobbit Hole Not A Hobbit Hole?
||[Aug. 8th, 2015|01:28 pm]
so says the Tolkien estate. And since the Tolkien estate is a behemoth that can afford to hire the most expensive lawyers its ruling is likely to go untested in a court of law.You can build a hobbit hole but you can't call it a hobbit hole- or|
Which is a pity. Because I'm not sure it would win. Or deserves to win. Does the person who coins a word own that word? Arguably, I suppose- if you're being legalistic about it- that would be the case- but most coiners are only too happy to release their word into the language and let it go off and have adventures of its own, (Think what a killing Shakespeare would have made if he'd been able to copyright his coinings. Or Lewis Caroll. Or Edward Lear.) The word "Hobbit" has been knocking around now for roughly three quarters of a century and- in addition to its original application- has gone and attached itself to a species of prehistoric pygmy hominid- and that's how language works. It's a living thing. You can't police the common tongue or stick copyright notices over the dictionary and Tolkien himself- for whom language was both a business and a playground- would almost certainly have agreed.
Also...the term "hobbit" was in print, albeit only once, some years before Tolkien independently reinvented it. Thus saith Tom Shippey.
I wasn't sure of that- but I had a suspicion it might be true.
It's not much of a previous use...in something called The Denham Tracts (J. Hardy edition, 1895, vol II) a listing of creatures. "the whole earth was overrun by ghosts, boggles,....hobbits, hobgoblins." (Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle Earth, p. 66. ) Shippey clearly thinks that, antecedent-wise, this is pretty thin gruel.
Yes, it is pretty thin.
And clearly Denham's hobbits are something rather different from Tolkien's.
I wonder whether hobbit was a dialect word- something Tolkien heard in his rural boyhood and then forgot about...
It has probably never been trademarked, in which case I don't think they have a leg to stand on, legally.
I think you'd have a hard job copyrighting something like that- especially as there's evidence the word existed before Tolkien got hold of it.
But where's a small business going to find the money to challenge the Tolkien estate?
Sure am glad the long arm of the Tolkien Estate didn't reach to Bilbo's Pizza in Kalamazoo, MI.
Tolkien belongs to the world now. There's no way the Estate can shut down every hobbit-related business.