Stan McDaniel

The Philology of the Idea

An Essay on Eidophonetics

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The words we use daily did not spring into being overnight, but grew from other words, which in turn grew from others, back into the unknown past. Even a very brief study shows that families of meanings, over the long course of time, attach themselves to particular families of sounds. Words gathered in this way are cognates, "born together."

From the point of view of sound alone, the development of new words from old ones is not a great mystery. But when the meanings of cognate families come to be considered, peculiar questions arise. Take clock, for example: it is related to the Old French word cloke, which means bell. The sounds of the words clock and cloke are obviously similar. But what about the meanings, "clock" and "bell?" Of course, the hours traditionally have been marked by the tolling of a bell, so perhaps it is not so hard after all to see why the two meanings should have similar-sounding names.

Cloke, however, has several other meanings, including cape or cloak. Philologists guessed that the meanings "bell" and "cape" were connected because of the roughly similar shape of bells and capes. This is a lame theory, because among other things it does not account for why some shape relations were important and others were not. Lots of things are shaped more like bells than are capes, which if anything are shaped roughly like bells only when clasped at the front and hanging sedately about the body. Nevertheless it was common practice for philologists to look for such simplistic explanations, although their "explanations" were often nothing more than pure guesswork. Another meaning of cloke is claw. Philologists could not imagine any simple connection, such as similar shape, between bells and claws (or between capes and claws), so they declared the matter "obscure" and judged it unimportant.

One reason for this general inability of traditional linguistics to give a more satisfactory account of semantic-phonetic patterns is the parochialism of the "official view" regarding the origins of language. The official view is that meanings are connected with sounds "arbitrarily" in all but a few unimportant cases. Unfortunately, no clearly developed notion of "arbitrariness" accompanies this view. The claim of arbitrariness generally reduces to a dogmatic insistence that the relation between the meaning of a term and its sound is accidental. But the presence or absence of significant pattern is what is at issue. To say in advance that there can be no significant pattern is to beg the question.

More careful analysis shows that the official view is based upon a metaphysical assumption about the relation between thought and utterance, namely mind-body dualism, which isolates thought (as "mental") from speech (as "physical"). Meanings are "mental;" speech is "physical." The physical (speech) is merely an inert vehicle for the mental (meaning). Thus whatever physical mark is chosen to represent a non-physical meaning is irrelevant to the meaning itself. The meaning, a mental occurrence, has no dependence upon, or essential relation to, its (merely) physical marker. Furthermore to attempt to divine the meaning from the marker is a futile endeavor in any but the most simple cases of imitative sounds (onomatopoeia). This bias rules out any recognition of a possible development of speech and meanings together. And the idea that meaning might itself develop out of (or in conjunction with) some prior vocal behavior is ruled out as an absurdity.

Certain contemporary trends indicate that the relation of thought to speech should not and cannot be cast within such a dualistic model. From an informed standpoint, there is no possibility of declaring a priori that meaning and sound can have only an "arbitrary" connection. Attention has been drawn to semantic-phonetic issues from such diverse fields as psychology, religious mythology, cosmology, poetics, and, very recently, linguistics itself. The diversity of sources that bear upon this topic is a natural result of the fact that language, as a focal point of human consciousness, requires global treatment and cannot be explained within the narrow boundaries of any specialized field. Because of the differences in the many approaches named above, and out of the need for fairness in judging their individual contributions, it is important to adopt a relatively neutral stance regarding methods and results until more facts are in.

To reflect such a global study of semantic-phonetic relations and to maintain as far as possible an even-handed approach, I have chosen to use the expression Eidophonetics (idea + sound), defined as the study of historical sound-to-meaning relationships in their capacity for expressing Leading Ideas. A Leading Idea is a significant abstract notion that binds together a cluster of concrete images so as to express a definite way of organizing experience and responding to the world. When a cluster of words that are related in sound also have meanings expressive of a Leading Idea, we have a case of the eidophonetic property of language.

In such an investigation the question of causality or origin must remain an open one not bound by bias in favor of one or another pre-existing theory. An eidophonetic cluster is likely to be composed entirely or largely of recognized cognates, but the investigative methodology will not deny the possible significance of terms not recognized as cognate (which of course opens questions of either parallel development or revision of the prevailing wisdom). Finally, the eidophonetic property may be evident not only in the meanings that accrue to clusters of sound-related terms, but also in the multiple meanings that may gather about a single term (as in our earlier example the meanings bell, cape, and claw accrue to cloke.) In such cases the multiple meanings are usually derivative from the larger eidophonetic grouping.

In the next section of this paper I will briefly describe some of the variety of studies and commentary that suggest the legitimacy and importance of eidophonetic phenomena. Following that I will give an example of an eidophonetic analysis of a particular cognate group that includes "clock" and "cloke.". I will conclude with a discussion of the philosophical background as it applies to eidophonetics.

Some Suggestive Viewpoints


In The Sacred Mushroom (1959), Andrija Puharich compared meanings of phonetically related Indo-European and Egyptian words, and concluded that in some cases the relationships between the meanings could be explained by referring to the conceptual and image systems underlying certain early religious practices.(1)

Santillana-von Dechend.

In Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time (1969), Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue that certain historical connections between meanings and sounds mirror ideas found in a particular kind of mythical cosmology. For example, after looking closely at the meanings associated with the Indo-European word roots manth and math, Santillana and von Dechend concluded that there is a "common objective significance" underlying a "vast family of word images." It was the pattern of consonants, according to the authors, that linked the related meanings: "The whole clan of words depends from a central conception sticking firmly to the consonants mnt/mnd." Like Puharich, Santillana and von Dechend point out that their data is not recognized in traditional philology. They state that in their opinion linguistic theory has been quite arbitrary in dealing with such material.(2)


In an essay "Phonological Aspects of Style: Some English Sonnets," Dell H. Hymes includes a section titled "On the Nexus between Sound and Meaning." Citing research evidence, Hymes concludes that "it is rash to deny the existence of universal, or widespread, types of sound symbolism...Insistence on the arbitrary nature of the connection between sound and meaning simply cuts off inquiry into a very real aspect of speech and language."(3)


An in-depth study of the philological elements in the fictional works of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) reveals what appears to be a deep sensitivity to, and use of, sound-meaning relationships to develop sequences of fictional action. In discussions of Tolkien's work found elsewhere, the philological element is largely ignored or treated superficially. My paper "The Philosophical Etymology of Hobbit" attempts to correct this misconception. In what follows here I will occasionally draw attention to various aspects of Tolkien's contributions that bear on the discussion.


Paul Kugler, in a paper "Image and Sound: An Archetypal Approach to Language" (part of a larger study on sleep-dream research), notes that word-association experiments carried out by Freud and Jung indicate that with the lapse of conscious attention, phonetic (sound) associations tend to replace semantic (meaning) ones. Kugler states that these experiments suggest "a fundamental law of imagination, that its mode of operation is sonorous, acoustic, phonetic, that there is an intimate connection between logos and image." Kugler identified this "intimate connection" as "the tendency of the unconscious to construct images according to phonetic consideration" and asks the following question: "Does our language contain 'autonomous groups of associations' connected phonetically and rooted in an archetypal image?" After detailed analysis of individual cases, Kugler makes the following strong theoretical statement:

"When different aspects of the same archetypal image are realized in language they tend to seek similar sound patterns and form a complex of phonetically associated words. Thus on a deep level (unconscious) there is a meaning-relation between phonetically associated words; however the connection is not via the literal lexical meaning, or syntactic relations, or common origin, but through the underlying archetypal image."(4)

Such a "complex of phonetically associated words" around a central archetypal image would be a specific case of eidophonetic pattern based on a Leading Idea (in this case the archetypal image). We would be inclined to say that the Jungian concept of an "archetypal image" is an instance of the more general notion of a Leading Idea.


Kugler's work cited above is an extension of the psychoanalytic theory of Jung. In Jung's elaborate work Symbols of Transformation (1912, Rev. 1952, p. 147), he devotes a lengthy passage to a discussion of word-meaning relationships surrounding several different phonetically connected groups of words (including the same manth/math group that interested Santillana and von Dechend). Jung also notes a cluster of eight different meanings associated with a single Sanskrit word, Tejas, and identifies this cluster as a clear expression of a definite archetypal motif. Jung concludes that the sound-meaning relationships brought out in this study exist "without there being any demonstrable etymological connections" between the words. He continues:

"In considering the etymology, then, we have to take into account not only the migration of the root-words, but the autochthonous revival of certain primordial images."

Origin, Cause and Methodology

Given the nature of the case, one would expect that eidophonetic patterns would reflect (or testify to) behavior-related conceptual schemes existing over long periods of time and having either specific cultural or even universally human significance. This would be, then, an anthropological category or perhaps a confluence of anthropological and psychological factors. My research indicates that the Leading Ideas binding of certain eidophonetic groupings do tend to suggest mythical-symbolic systems as elaborated in archetypal psychology (Jung). However, Santillana and Von Dechend identify a cosmological theme as the Leading Idea behind certain eidophonetic clusters. If we find that eidophonetic groupings appear to reflect cosmological themes, ultimately the question may be raised as to how cosmological, anthropological and psychological factors bear on one another (which would then certainly involve issues of causality and origin.)

In this area one must be careful, not because archetypal psychology is an illegitimate endeavor, but because the Jungian viewpoint is often poorly understood outside its own sphere and easily confused with metaphysical or mystical views by investigators from other fields. In order to further eidophonetic research in an orderly manner, the balance point between a metaphysical and a purely cognitive interpretation of eidophonetic phenomena must be carefully drawn.

For example, in Mark Johnson's study The Body in the Mind, Johnson puts forth a notion of "image-schemata" that plays the role of the Leading Idea. But Johnson's work is severely limited by a lack of contact with the findings of both archetypal psychology and transactional (nondualistic) philosophy.(5) Even though Johnson touches on the topic of semantic change over time as conditioned by "metaphors of embodiment," Johnson's concept of the extent and value of metaphorical imagery in the guidance of behavior is restricted to simplistic and speculative notions of the application of force, etc., without reference to the wider context of archetypal analogy systems in their relation to the guidance of behavior.

In a related text, George Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, Lakoff firmly establishes the possibility of eidophonetic phenomena on empirical grounds, but again resists moving into the difficult realms of Jungian archetypal imagery. Lakoff writes that the "principles of linguistic organization" that bring together names for many different areas of experience under a single category cannot be exhausted by reference to classical (objectivist- Aristotelian) modes of categorization but must rather include a number of non-objectivist factors including "image-schema transformations, metonymy applied to mental imagery, metonymy applied to domains of experience," and "metaphors which map domains into other domains." (6) In agreement with the view mentioned above (that one might expect eidophonetic patterns to be a function of both anthropological and psychological factors) Lakoff says his observations "support the view that our conceptual system is dependent on, and intimately linked to, our physical and cultural experience." In the same passage, Lakoff recognizes the conflict between the reality of speech and the metaphysics of mind-body dualism, saying that His observations "disconfirm the classical view that concepts are abstract and separate from human experiences." (7)

Lakoff describes in detail how a classification scheme found in the Dyirbal (aboriginal Australian) language can only be accounted for in terms of a system of metaphors based upon Dyribal myth. We have here an admitted mechanism of semantic change or "principles of linguistic organization" that depends upon the myth-making and analogy system of the speakers of the language; yet Lakoff makes no reference at all to the extensive analyses of mythical analogy-systems having a universal or near-universal significance which have been developed over the past eighty-six years, since the publication of Jung's first psychiatric studies in 1902.

The impediment confronting both Lakoff and Johnson is easy to spot. They are both concerned with issues in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science, and are making a valiant attempt to talk to both sides of the methodological opposition at once. As a result, they persist in describing the analogy systems that organize behavior in terms of cognitive structures, extremely limited physical examples ("container," "force," "front-back," "part-whole, "up-down" etc.), and in the absence of theories of the unconscious mind in its relation to bodily (instinctive) behavior patterns (i.e. the anthropological/psychological nexus). Thus Johnson explains the application of "image-schemata" to reality in terms of an unexplained (and clearly ad hoc) mechanism of "projection" and Lakoff persists in developing a hopelessly arbitrary idea of "Idealized Cognitive Models" to the same end.

Against his desire to eschew objectivism, Lakoff's approach is hampered by the lingering objectivistic framework inherent in his methodology. Much of the trouble seems to be that neither Lakoff nor Johnson is in possession of a deep enough analysis of the objectivist bent. In contrast however the approach of Puharich, Santillana, and von Dechend is loose and impressionistic. The seeds of a balance between these methodologies are visible in Johnson's work (with a more sophisticated but not yet adequate account of objectivism) as well as in some areas of Psycholinguistic research.

Eidophonetics requires room for the unruly but absolutely necessary material provided by archetypal psychology, avoiding the restrictions imposed by "cognitivism," but maintaining care in methodology nevertheless. It is especially important not to reject a priori the possibility that the concept of the Jungian archetypal unconscious must be brought into play in any adequate explanation of eidophonetic phenomena. My research indicates that the analogy systems present in certain eidophonetic clusters are neither purely those of archetypal psychology nor those of simple force and containment metaphors (as Johnson sees them). Instead, empirically speaking they appear to accord better with the Santillana-Von Dechend findings in showing a correlation with the deep structure of nondualistic cosmological systems. Why this should be the case, and how cosmology might impinge on psychology and language-formation, is a separate question from identifying the eidophonetic phenomena as such.

The Leading Idea

In this short article my focus, in the manner of an example, is on the question raised earlier about the connection between the sound-related cognates "clock" and "cloke" and their seemingly disparate meanings of "bell," "cape," and "claw." My finding is that these terms and their meanings belong to an eidophonetic cluster based on a particular Leading Idea. The Leading Idea involves (1) a cosmological principle, and (2) a set of metaphors surrounding that principle. The cosmology and the set of metaphors are to be found in a wide range of traditional myth and symbol systems, both eastern and western.


. We begin by citing the creation myth of the ancient seafaring people, the Pelasgians (as reported by Robert Graves).(8) According to the myth, Eurynome, the "Goddess of all things,"rises naked from the unformed void (chaos), divides the sea from the sky, and dances on the surface of the water. Her movement creates a wind, which she catches and strokes between her hands until out comes the world-serpent Ophion. Eurynome and Ophion have intercourse, whereupon the goddess takes the form of a dove and lays the "Universal Egg" out of which are born all the realms of existing things.

The dominant cosmology in this story is the idea that creation, particularly creation of the realms of living things, is a result of friction -- that is, the frictional encounter between opposing movements. There are four frictional images in this creation story: The first is the impress of Eurynome's feet on the water as she dances along the boundary area between differing media (sea and sky).(9) The second is the friction of her movement through the sky, which brings about the wind. The third is the friction between her hands as she rubs them together. And finally there is the "friction" of her intercourse with the serpent Ophion.

Parallels to this tale include the story of Aphrodite, who upon rising from the sea caused grass to spring from the ground by the pressure of her footsteps (i.e. by friction). A delightful poem by J.R.R Tolkien is a clear reflection of the basic story, as his "Princess Mee" an obvious surrogate for Eurynome, dispenses with rubbing the wind in favor of creating the stars (shining sparks) by the contact of her dancing feet with the surface of the water.

As a concept of the process of creation, we have here the notion of a frictional "stroke" between an active force and a receptive medium, and their product or emission which is the realm of living things.

A study of "boundary-layer phenomena" or the dynamic creative process along the line between two frictionally encountering forces reveals that the result takes the archetypal form of vortex-trains: complex systems and subsystems of vortices (waves, whorls, spirals) that form a unified texture such that an intrusion at any one place can cause a reaction throughout the entire system. Archetypal symbolism frequently recognizes the serpentine form (e.g. Ophion in the myth) as a reference to wave-like undulating motion.(10) And of course Aphrodite, "Born of the Foam," arises out of the frothy white sea-mew created by the tidal friction along the boundary of land and sea.

On a cosmological scale, viewing the entire universe as a "frictional" creation of vortices having the characteristics of unity across systems and subsystems coincides with the idea that dynamically all elements in the universe belong to a unified whole and ultimately movement in one place affects the entire cosmos. Such a cosmology may function as a conscious or unconscious principle for the organization of behavior and be reflected in a set of cultural beliefs about the significance of individual actions, as well as the nature and relationships of individual beings.(11)

The two chief elements in this cosmological scheme are "stroke" and "realm." The "stroke" element being the frictional encounter, and the "realm" element representing the complex system of interrelated forms. Additionally we have the image that realms exist within realms, this being the result of the complex ramifications of systems of vortices. Furthermore because all such systems and subsystems are ultimately a function of the initial "stroke," in such a cosmology the "higher" and "lower" realms are understood to be intrinsically related, e.g. the Heavenly realm and the Earthly.


The specific relation between such friction-generated interdependent realms is one of analogy (all realms being expressions of a single originative force).(12) The notion of realms being related by analogy is pervasive in ancient symbolism and is the basis for multitudes of metaphors by which the relation is exemplified. An especially clear expression of this concept occurs somewhat unexpectedly in a simple riddle found in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, "An eye in a blue face / Saw an eye in a green face / 'That eye is like to this eye' / said the first eye, ' But in low place / Not in high place."(13)

The answer to the riddle is "Sun on the Daisies." The realms are the solar above and the meadow of flowers below, and the relation is analogy -- the daisy is an "eye" like the sun. Recalling the "vortex" aspect of frictional creation, an "eye" is the center of a vortex (like the eye of a hurricane). More specifically we have the cosmological suggestion that each individual identity within a field of interrelated beings (a realm) is in some respect like a center of multiple circulating forces. I cite Tolkien here because his philologically-inspired imagery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is suffused throughout with an evident awareness of this particular analogous relationship between the starry heavens above and the "world of woven trees" below.(14)

The Weaving Metaphor

. Indeed, Tolkien's expression for the realm below as the "world of woven trees" carries with it the image of the realm as a unified complex system on the analog of a weaving or fabric. By extension the woven fabric metaphor includes the negative aspect of a snare or net. The realm of created forms is not only a place for the nurture of living things but also a place where they may be ensnared or trapped in the web of existence. There is a correspondence here to the eastern notion of the visible world as maya, a web of illusion that traps the unwary by preventing a vision of true reality. The Indo-European root is ma- or me- "to measure" or as it were throw a grid or meshwork over things. The negative side of the mesh is its capacity for ensnaring or trapping (compare Mara, the evil one and tempter of the Buddha, and Moira the Greek "Fate.") The creation of individual things, in other words, carries with it the possibility of losing sight of the whole and becoming enmeshed in only limited areas of experience. Tolkien's expression of the weaving as a snare is a bit more benign. In one of his poems (Errantry) he speaks of the mariner who, chasing a pretty maiden, "Wove a tissue airy-thin / To snare her in."

Milk, Stars, Light and Whiteness.

In another creation myth we encounter the infant Hercules, whose over-enthusiastic mauling of the breast of Rhea results in a spurt of milk, creating the realm of stars we call the "milky way." Here again is a frictional encounter (Hercules' stroke) resulting in the creation of a realm containing countless "eyes" or centers of identity (the stars). Instead of the undulating serpent Ophion we find "milk" and its associated color, white, like the milky whiteness of the sea-foam in the story of Aphrodite. The parallel in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is the myth of the goddess Elbereth "Snow White" who creates the stars and the Moon, described as a "silver blossom."(15) And in an early poem Tolkien speaks of two trees who stand in the dale "utterly entwined" and "suck the very light together." The image is one of light as "milk" and a source of nourishment (as sunlight is to trees).(16)

So the cosmological scheme is this: A frictional stroke brings forth realms which are related by analogy and which can be described by various metaphors, one being the metaphor of a weaving or fabric (with its negative side the snare or net), another being the metaphor of a wave- or vortex- train (with its implication of universal relationships based on analogy), and another being the image of production and nourishment embodied in milk or light, and bright white or silver color.

These are not a contrived concatenation, but rather a nexus of metaphors and images that can be found closely bound together in any in-depth study of myth, archetype, and symbolism. Once this Leading Idea is in place, it becomes a fountain of endless metaphors of relationship, creation, procreation and identity.

Consonants and Vowels

In an Eidophonetic investigation it is the consonants that are the links. For example, consider the consonants in the following set of terms.

Language Term Consonants Meaning


C-P-T "head"


G-B-T "morsel"


H-FV-DH "head"


H-D "head"

The words in the table above are all recognized cognates: all are understood to be descendants of caput. But the order given is illustrative and not specifically historical. In an eidophonetic treatment choice of sequence must remain flexible and depends on what factors are to be emphasized. Going down the center columns from top to bottom, we see the initial consonants C,G,H; center consonants P,B,F; and final consonants T, Dh, D. When one sees how the middle consonant P in caput, for example, "softens" from P to B to F(V)...and then fades out altogether, it is easier to understand the phonetic relation of caput to head.(17) In head the hard C and T of caput "soften" to H and D, and the central consonant P has been lost.

Expanding a bit on the example above, as a simple working model we may identify groups of sound-related consonants as shown in the following table. These groups are essentially a summation of relationships frequently encountered in philological literature. (If anything, the groupings appear to be conservative.) Note that the groups overlap at Z and W, and fade into the vowels through (U).

T-Group T Th D Dh (Z)
P-Group P B F V W (U)
Ph M
Ch Gh
K-Group K Kh G H W (U)
(C) Sh Zh

In addition to these sound-related consonants, vowel-consonant ambiguity occurs in these "weak" consonants that have a vowel-like quality in certain contexts.

R L M N (V) (W) (Y)

We will treat the consonants in words as the "bones" or underlying significant structure. For example, the consonant "skeleton"of caput is CPT, of gobbet GBT, and so on. The consonant skeleton is not only a particular set of consonants, but shades into a general range of related patterns. For example, the consonant skeleton CLT has as related forms GLT, GLD, HLT, HLD, WLT, WLD,, etc. Included in this range are also the anagrams. For example, the consonant skeleton VRC has the anagram CRV, with multiple terms carrying the same or related meanings adhering to both forms. There are many instances of this sort of relationship: for example ALBA "white" and BLANC "white" reflecting an LB/BL anagram. Finally, we have to take into account the double role of some consonants which may at times act as vowels. The consonant skeleton of cold is CLD, but since L is vowel-like (it has vowel/consonant ambiguity), cold may considered also in relation to the skeleton CD.

The CL/LC Expressions

Clock and cloke are both CLC expressions, attached to the anagrammatic set CL/CLC/LC. Matching these related consonant skeletons are terms like coal, clock, and lock. A coal is a glowing ember, a source of light, a "bright spark." The welsh word for a coal is glo, and glo- is the Teutonic root from which the words glass and glow derive. The root glo- means "to shine" and glow refers to "shining heat, incandescence." There are, then, related GL- words which match the CL- word coal in the general meaning: "spark, ember, source of light."

Clock originally meant bell, and still has this meaning in some languages. And clock, like coal, also exhibits this C/G ambiguity. The German synonym is Glocke, with its initial G instead of C. Irish and Gaelic are clog and clag, having the change in the final consonant. The Old French form of clock is cloke, which means bell, but also means cape and claw (as mentioned at the outset). English cloak is derived from cloke; so we have the significant grouping of meanings, "bell" (as a stroke-word) and "cloak" (as a fabric-word).

A lock is both a tress of hair or part of a beard, a tuft of wool or cotton, and "a contrivance for fastening...a hobble or shackle for a horse's foot."(18) This word traces to a pre-Teutonic source, lugno, in one sense, and to Teut. Root luk- in the other. Luk meant "to close, enclose." Lock in this latter sense of a hobble must be cognate with Latin laqueus, "a noose, a rope with a noose, a halter for hanging, a snare, trap, net."

The anagram of these LC- terms is CL-, which we find in such words as kill and weel, both referring to woven willow-snares used for catching fish (WL being a "softened" form of CL). But a kill is also a "stroke or a blow." Its relative kell is a fabric-term "gossamer forming a film on grass" while caul is both "a covering membrane" and "a net, spider's web" (i.e. a snare).

The hard C (or K) in laqueus is replaced by a soft sibilant S, Sh, or Tch in its modern descendants lace, lash, and latch. Lace also means "a net, noose, or snare" as well as "a delicate open-work fabric of linen, cotton, silk, woolen, or metal threads, usually with inwrought or applied patterns." Lace also refers to 'a string, cord, or thong." It matches latch in this, since latch means "thong, loop, noose, gin, snare, tangle" and also "to take hold of, grasp." This last meaning coincides with that of clutch, which is synonymous with cloke in its meaning "claw."

A lash is also a thong, especially the "flexible part of a whip, the whipcord." Lash also means "a sudden or violent blow." Laqueus, lace, lash and latch, therefore, form a group of LC (LS/LSh/LTch) words which associate among them the same meanings as are evident among the CL expressions kill, kell, and caul: that is, stroke-meanings, fabric-meanings, and snare or trap-meanings.

Our attention turns now to glass, a GL- variant of the CL- terms (as glo is to coal).. Glass is A.S. glass, G. glas, O.N. gler, cognate with glare, L.G. glaren "to gleam" and A.S. Glaer "amber." Baltic tribes called amber glaesum from L. glesum. The word may be related to L. glacies "ice" and F. glace "ice, large mirror." The ultimate origin of glass appears to be uncertain but it is generally thought to trace to the Teut. Roots gla-, glae-, which are variants of glo- "to shine." In Swedish and Danish glo has the additional eye-meaning "to stare." This is also true of M.E. gloren "glow, stare" and E. glare "to shine with a brilliant or dazzling light; to look fiercely and fixedly."

Glass, therefore, is one of a group of related terms that refer to radiant light, especially to a brilliant, reflecting and perhaps white surface such as that of ice, glass itself, or in the case of glaukos "gleaming, glancing, bright-gleaming" the surface of the sea, to which glaukos was often applied. Glaukos is especially interesting because it appears to be related to Gr. Lauko, a name for the Moon. The moon is the chief archetypal representative of a shining, silvery-white surface: the "prime reflector" of solar energies upon the earth. Following this hint we find another LC-word which is closely related to glaukos and lauko in meaning: Gr. Leukos "light" derived from the I.E. root leuk- "shine, be white." A similar relationship to that of glaukos and lauko exists in the "invented" Elvish language of J.R.R Tolkien between Elv. glos "dazzling-white" and los "fallen snow" (a lustrous, dazzling white surface.)

Having come from the "stroke," "fabric" and "snare" terms now to "light" and "white," we might expect, thinking of the Leading Idea, that there would be "milk" expressions as well. It is a reasonable prediction. Glagos is the Greek word for milk, a form of gala-. Another form of the Greek word is galaktos and the Latin equivalent is the LC- term lac "milk." And so with very little effort we have arrived at galaxy, the "stream of stars," and in skeletal correspondence to lac we find Latin luc "light."

Of the Leading Idea as expressed on the CLC consonant skeleton we have so far "stroke," "Fabric," "snare," "light," and "milk." We are lacking only "forest" (tree, wood, meadow etc.) as "realm" words to complete the cosmological scheme. Behind all these CL- terms lies the Indo-European qldos, base qel- "to strike," which has as cognates on sound-related consonant skeletons a multitude of forest and realm terms like glade, holt, hold, wold, and welt. While it is now used to refer to an unforested plain, wold comes from the Old High German and Old English names for "forest, which are wald and weald. A holt is a small wood or clump of trees, like a hold or forest fastness, deriving from German Holz, "a wood." And finally "realm," for that is the meaning of Welt in German. In the qldos- glade-hold-wold series we see the "softening" consonant series C-G-H-W as described previously.

A particularly interesting term in this context is Gr. klados, "young sprout or shoot." In the qldos- klados relationship we see the configuration stroke, birth, and whiteness all in a simple dynamic image. Qldos- is the stroke, klados the birth of the plant from the seed, and a translucent whiteness is the color of the young sprout pushing upward to be warmed and turned green by the action of the sun. Driving home the metaphor is the klados cognate gladius (Welsh cleddyf), "sword," which not only has a shape-relation to a sprout but embodies both the idea of "stroke" and that of "silver-white, gleaming."

Let's take a look then, at these and a few other related terms, keeping in mind the Leading Idea. (Because of the close correspondence in sound and meaning between Tolkien's Elvish languages and the terms discussed here, I include a few Elvish terms in appropriate locations.)

Term Skeleton Language Meaning
QEL- CL I.E. root Strike
COAL CL Eng. A glowing ember
COWL CL Eng. A cloth headgear
KILL CL Eng. 1. A stroke or blow
2. An eel-trap or weel
KELL CL Eng. A gossamer film, web
CAUL CL Eng. 1. A covering membrane
2. A net, spider's web
GIL GL Elv. Star, bright spark
CALA CL Elv. Light
CLAW CL(W) Eng. Sieze, grip, clutch
GLOW GL(W) Eng. Shining heat
GLO- GL Teut. To shine
LAC LC Lat. Milk
LUC LC Lat. Light
LUZ L(Z) Sp. Light
LEUK- LC I.E. root Shine, be white
LAUKO LC Gr. The Moon
GLAUKOS GLC Gr. Gleaming, Glancing
GLAGOEIS GLG Gr. Milk-white
GLOS GL(S) Elv. Dazzling-white
LOS L(S) Elv. Fallen Snow
GLOOS GL(S) Du. Glowing, gleaming
GLOSSI GL(S) Icel. A blaze
GLOSSY GL(S) Eng. Smooth and shining, a
polished lustrous surface
GLASS GL(S) Eng. A reflecting surface
LASSI L(S) Elv. Leaves
GLAZE GL(Z) Eng. 1. Coating to produce
a lustrous surface
2. A stretch of ice (U.S.)
LACE L(S) Eng. 1. Delicate open-work fabric
2. Net, snare, noose
LAZ L(Z) O. Fr. Rope with noose
LASSO L(S) Eng. Rope with noose
LASH L(Sh) Eng. 1. To fasten with a cord
2. To lace a garment
CLASH CL(Sh) Eng. Collision, conflict
LATCH L(Tch) Eng. 1. Loop, noose, snare
2. Take hold of, grasp
CLUTCH CL(Tch) Eng. Claw, grip, grasp
CLOCK CLC Eng. A bell
LOCK LC Eng. Contrivance for fastening
CLOAK CLC Eng. A cape
CLOKE CLC O. Fr. 1. A cape
2. A bell
3. A claw
CLICK CLC Eng. Frictional sound
LICK LC Eng. A smart blow
LOG LG Eng. Wooden fetter or hobble
CLOG CLG Eng. Wooden fetter or hobble
CLEEK CLC Eng. To sieze with the hand or
a large hook
LAQUEUS LC Lat. Noose, rope with noose,
halter for hanging, snare,
trap, net
LICHT L(Ch)T G. Light
LIGHT L-T Eng. Light
LIGARE LG Lat. To bind
LIGGER LG Eng. 1. A coverlet
2. A line with a float and bait
for fishing
3. A plank bridge
4. The nether millstone
LUX L(X) Lat. Light
GALAXY GL(X) Eng. The star-stream, Milky Way
GLAD GLD Eng. Bright, shining
GLADE GLD Eng. Meadow, open place in
the woods
GALAD GLD Elv. Tree; Light
KALADA CLD Lith. A wood
ALDA -LD Elv. Tree; Light
KALDA CLD Russ. Dial. A wood
QLDOS CLD I.E. To strike
HOLT HLT Eng. Small wood, glade
WALD WLD O.H.G. Forest

All the key elements of the Leading Idea, a cosmological perspective expressed as a cluster of metaphors, are to be found among the CL/CLC/LC expressions and their phonetic variations: stroke, light, whiteness, milk, fabric, snare, forest, realm. Moreover the list above is only a small portion of the total eidophonetic cluster.(19)

Now we may offer an explanation for the philological puzzle regarding the relation between the meanings of clock and cloke, "bell, cape, claw." The puzzle extends, for example, to cloche, which has the meanings "a close-fitting hat" and "bell." Here, without claw, one might easily appeal to the shape-relation. But with claw in the picture such explanations are not as comfortable. But if we locate clock, cloke and cloche among the CLC expressions, we can readily infer that the relation of "bell" to "cape" or "hat" (compare clapper, cloth, cowl) is an instance of the general pattern associating frictional and woven-surface or fabric words. Under this hypothesis, claw is no longer left out in the cold. Instead cloke as "claw" falls right into place within the eidophonetic cluster along with its relatives clutch "claw," latch "take hold of, grasp," and the quaint old word cleek "to sieze with the clutch or hand." What assures these meanings a place in the scheme is the fact that the grasping hand is an archetypal five-fingered snare. It is certainly the prototype of all snares used by humans, the first of all tools; and as such it is the first manifestation of mind, that snare of the universe.

The Question of Origins

If indeed some causative factor is at work, as I believe there is, in producing such a vast eidophonetic phenomenon as that hinted at by the limited analysis above, it would seem to bear on the question of the origin of human consciousness as a function of the necessities of behavior-in-the-world. The eidophonetic pattern discussed here is but a small portion of further and related patterns which appear to extend across centuries and across a variety of cultures. Earlier I noted that since the Leading Idea in this case seems to reflect a cosmology of creation, questions arise as to the relation between cosmological, archetypal, psychological and anthropological factors. Especially significant is that this nexus of factors is contrary to the dominant Platonic-cognitive world view in the western world. It is associated with "goddess" not "God" and with intrinsic relationships between thought and thing, not the separation implied by the Platonic view. As a natural result of this single factor such an investigation and such conclusions are likely to seem erratic and indeed even impossible by the "accepted" views regarding the origins of language.

My purpose in this paper has been primarily simply to present what I believe is a certain eidophonetic phenomenon. I have no answer to the question of Origin, although I am convinced that what we are seeing when we uncover eidophonetic clusters is some testimony to the fundamental relations between humanity and nature. If I read him correctly, the poet Robert Graves considered the mythical-archetypal cosmology embodied in language to be a "basis for poetry." On that view, the deep connections within nature can find expression in poetry when the poet utilizes eidophonetic pattern to bring about the desired sense of unity and experience of wholeness, to recover the undivided state from whence we come, even if only for a moment. This view appears to coincide with that of Owen Barfield, who in his profoundly wise book Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning says the following:

"Connections between discrete phenomena, connections which are now apprehended as metaphor, were once perceived as immediate realities. As such the poet strives, by his own efforts, to see them, and to make others see them, again."(20)

By the view presented herein, the persistence of unity as discovered in the eidophonetic clusters of language is what makes such poetry possible.


1. Puharich, Andrija; The Sacred Mushroom. Doubleday & Co. N.Y. 1974, p. 150. (return)

2. Santillana, Giorgio de, and von Dechend, Hertha; Hamlet's Mill. Gambit Inc. Boston 1969, p. 379. (return)

3. Hymes, Dell H., "Phonological Aspects of Style: Some English Sonnets." In Essays on the Language of Literature, ed. Chatman & Levin, Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston 1967, p. 37. (return)

4. Kugler, Paul; "Image and Sound: An Archetypal Approach to Language." Spring, 1978, p. 143. (return)

5. I use the term "transactional" to describe the nondualistic perspective as articulated by John Dewey in his chief works, Experience and Nature, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, and Knowing and the Known. A detailed definition is given in my monograph Transtantric Metaphilosophy: A New Direction in East-West Synthesis. (return)

6. Lakoff, George; Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. U. of Chicago Press, 1987. (return)

7. Lakoff, op. cit., pp. 112-113. The classical paradigm here is that originating with Plato, whose "Eternal Ideas" were independent of, and superior to, the changing world of inferior forms. (return)

8. Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths. Penguin Books, 1990. (return)

9. In one of Tolkien's poems, "Little Princess Mee," the Princess, a surrogate for Eurynome, dispenses with rubbing the wind in favor of creating the stars (shining sparks) by the contact of her dancing feet with the surface of the water. The story is reminiscent of Aprhodite's creation of the grasses by the impress of her feet on the ground after she arises from the sea. (return)

10. Similarly Princess Mee's motion (see note 9) is one of "whirling" so the trail of light she leaves behind is a series of whorls or vortices. (return)

11. On a terrestrial scale, this perspective would be analogous to the ecological principle that an ecosystem is itself such a unified set of complex interrelations. (return)

12. See my paper "Models of Development in esoteric and Western thought" Diagram 4.

13. Tolkien, J. R.R., The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston 1994 hardback edition, p. 70. (return)

14. Tolkien, J. R.R., The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston 1994 paperback edition, p. 78. (return)

15. Tolkien, op. cit., p. 78 (my italics). (return)

16. Carpenter, Humphrey; Tolkien: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston 1977, p. 74. (return)

17. As to what "head" and "morsel" are doing together, see my paper "The Philosophical Etymology of Hobbit." (return)

18. All definitions herein are taken from the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, The Century Co. New York, 1901. (return)

19. See my heretofore unpublished manuscript "A Basket of Mushrooms." (return)

20. Barfield, Owen; Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York 1964, p. 92(return)