Animalic - "crude in the extreme"
Animalic was a rudimentary private language invented by Mary and Marjorie
Incledon, Tolkien's young cousins, about 1905. Tolkien, then in his early
teens and already deep into Latin and Anglosaxon, found it amusing and
The sole surviving fragment of Animalic is the sample sentence given
by Tolkien in "The Monsters and the Critics" p. 200:
It appears that Animalic was a rather clumsy language; certainly it wasn't
rational that extremely frequent grammatical words like "are" or the article
"a(n)" were rendered by long words like nightingale and woodpecker.
(I guess the Animalic word for "the" was *hippopotamus or something
like that.) We shall never know how much Animalic Mary and her sister made,
Dog nightingale woodpecker forty, meaning "you are an ass", ass
being the animal and nothing else. Forty was Animalic for "ass, donkey",
while donkey was the word for 40!
probably wasn't enough to translate the works of Shakespeare. Likely
it was just a game; perhaps the kids decided upon words for "idiot", "moron"
and the like, and then sat for hours throwing insults at one another:
*Dog nightingale woodpecker horse! *Dog nightingale woodpecker hundred!
*Dog nightingale woodpecker brontosaurus! (Slightly worried parent:
"Hey, kids, what are you saying?" Innocent-looking children: "Nothing,
mom! (Giggle.) Nothing at all!")
Tolkien's judgement is harsh, but justified: Animalic was "crude...in
the extreme". (MC:200) Nontheless it was one of his very first acquintances
with an invented language, perhaps the first. And it was to give way to
- the first invented language Tolkien himself contributed to.