U is for the University of Oxford (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

U is for University of Oxford.

I feel badly that I don't have new photos to share. We've been talking about taking a quick weekend trip to revisit Oxford; I'd especially like to see the parts I haven't gone to yet, including a visit to Tolkien's grave, a visit to Lewis' grave, a drink at the Mitre, a drink at the Lamb and Flag, afternoon tea at the Eastgate hotel...

Until then, though, I leave you with two quotes from Tolkien's collected letters:

During the war, Tolkien was involved in teaching forces cadets at the university, on the wartime 'short courses'. He reports in a letter to C. S. Lewis on a fellow teacher, M. R. Ridley, who was "astounded at the ignorance of all 22 cadets" and adds in a PS:

"Ridley's first question in the test-paper was a group of words to define -- apposite, reverend, venal, choric, secular, and a few others. Not one case got any of the words right."

If I'm being completely honest, I have no idea what venal and choric mean. Looking them up in the Oxford English Dictionary, I don't feel as badly; they're from Latin and Greek, respectively. I never had a classical education, after all.

Here's Tolkien on children and adults and vocabulary, from a draft letter to New Statesman:
"Life is rather above the measure of us all (save for a very few perhaps). We all need literature that is above our measure -- though we may not have sufficient energy for it all the time. But the energy of youth is usually greater. Youth needs then less than adulthood or Age what is down to its (supposed) measure. But even in Age I think we only are really moved by what is at least in some point or aspect above us, above our measure, at any rate before we have read it and 'taken it in'. Therefore do not write down to Children or to anybody. Not even in language. ... An honest word is an honest word, and its acquaintance can only be made by meeting it in a right context. A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one's age-group. It comes from reading books above one."

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