attercop


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attercop

(ˈætəkɒp)
n
1. (Animals) a spider
2. an ill-natured person
[Old English attorcoppa, from ātor poison and possibly cop head]
References in periodicals archive ?
Can you find the Attercop? Bodnant Garden National Trust, Conwy.
Follow the trail of the Attercop at Bodnant Garden this half term.
Can you find the Attercop? Bodnant Garden National Trust, Conwy Follow the trail of the Attercop at Bodnant Garden this half term.
Joe Wright, who had played a key role in setting the young Tolkien on the philological path that would occupy him to the end of his days, produced a stunning six-volume work of scholarship, The English Dialect Dictionary, from 1898 to 1905, in which Volume I contains a substantial entry for attercop (91).
Some years later, Tolkien might have seen the poem by Robert Graves, "Attercop: The All-Wise Spider," published in 1924.
Returning to real etymology, the first element in attercop goes back to Old English ator (variously spelled, ater, attor, etor, etc.), meaning "poison"; cognate forms Tolkien would have known from the other medieval Germanic languages include Old Norse eitr, Old High German eitar, Old Saxon ettar, hettar.
We have thus found a kind of double meaning--"head" versus "cup"--is the second element of attercop. Spiders are both "heads of poison" and "cups of poison," and they may even have "bags of poison" or deliver a "pox of poison." And this is not the end of our odyssey through Tolkien's wonderful words and their double-or even triple-meanings.
(9) As it happens, there is a Finnish word, myrkky, which is quite close phonologically, but which doesn't mean "dark" at all; rather, it means "poison," just like the first element of attercop. Cognate to these are Estonian murk, Saami (Lappish) mir'hku, and Hungarian mereg, all meaning "poison"--and all looking like the first element in Mirkwood.
(3) Where Tolkien writes, "Attercop! / Down you drop!", it's not too far-fetched to think Tolkien could be punning on the Welsh, pointing out (beyond the literal meaning of the lines) that Old English ator-coppe eroded ("dropped down") into Welsh adrop.
Similarly, Tolkien drew on older dialectical words such as "attercop," "cop," and "lob/lop" for spider.
They've added their own analysis of some of Tolkien's later coinages, adaptations, and borrowings, ranging from ent and attercop to confusticate and eleventy-one.
TOMORROWAnother 100...Don't miss part two of Phil's quiz 37 Attercop -poison head -is an old folk name for which creature?