You're always popping up

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Could there be a connotation of something magical or uncanny when Tolkien uses the word "pop" in The Lord of the Rings?

I was almost sure, listening to the latest podcast, that Butterbur had already described Strider as "popping up" before the talk in the Hobbits' room and yes, there it is: "He disappears for a month, or a year, and then he pops up again." -- Butterbur in the common room when Frodo has asked him "Who is that?".

The word is used again before they get quite out of Bree, when "inqusitive heads" "popped over walls and fences". Then Sam, after Lorien: "when up pops a New Moon as thin as a nail-pairing, as if we had never stayed no time in the Elvish country." And Sam uses the word once more, chiding Robin Smallburrow for not leaving the Shirriffs: "You used to like the inside of an inn better than the outside yourself. You were always popping in, on duty or off."

That last use is clearly not about anything uncanny <g>.

Wiktionary says the etymology is "From Middle English pop, poppe (“a blow; strike; buffet”) (> Middle English poppen (“to strike; thrust”, verb)), of onomatopoeic origin" so at least it's a good Middle English word, but no connection to magic or the uncanny is given. Yet I find it interesting that it does come from a word associated with violence, underlining Butterbur's mistrust of Strider, and suggesting that maybe he does, after all, fear him, at least unconsciously.