The Ruffians in the Shire

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The Ruffians in the Shire

Postby ToshoftheWuffingas » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:38 am

I've often thought Tolkien's choice of name for the brigands in the Scouring seemed a bit old fashioned and almost nursery-like. It seemed to minimise them. Today though, reading of the Kansas war atrocities I came across the term Border Ruffians and wondered if Tolkien, a well read man had those in mind, intruders from outside bringing disorder and violence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Ruffian
I realise the answer is unknowable but it gives an added depth to the term that has jarred for me in the past.
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Re: The Ruffians in the Shire

Postby scirocco » Sat Oct 14, 2017 1:54 am

It's always possible, I guess, but I'm not sure that an Englishman educated in the early 20th century would have even heard of a fairly minor US gang of the Civil War era.

I also suspect that "ruffian" did not sound as melodramatic in the past as it does to our ears today. Many words of that type which have come to sound archaic to the ears of the 2010's still held their original force and meaning in the Jubilee era that the Shire is supposed to be reminiscent of. Nothing would have pleased Tolkien more than to use a word in precisely the "wrong" manner in order to create a sense of verisimilitude. That was absolutely part of his literary technique.

Shakespeare uses "ruffian" on a good few occasions. Tolkien didn't particularly like Shakespeare but he can't have helped being influenced by him, given how engrained in the culture and education system Shakespeare was at the time Tolkien was young. Who knows, maybe he had to edit the definition of the word while editing the OED in the 1920's.
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Re: The Ruffians in the Shire

Postby Aravar » Sat Oct 14, 2017 7:42 am

I agree with Scirocco. I suspect that the passage fo time: after all it's nearly sixty years since LOTR was published has made "ruffian" look softer. The language of today is coarser than it was then, after all.
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Re: The Ruffians in the Shire

Postby Morwenna » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:27 pm

And it would be hard to find a modern word equivalent. Bully? Gangster? Hooligan? None of them have the right flavor. An archaic word works best here (assuming it's understood by the readership) because an obviously modern word would jar. These guys were the rustic version of an overblown street gang, but I honestly don't know of a better word to use in a rustic archaic setting.
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Re: The Ruffians in the Shire

Postby WitchKing13 » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:20 am

"ruffian" seems like the kind of word Hobbits might use - simple, rustic & old fashioned
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