Free the Word: Bobowler

28 September 2017

Bobowler by Liz Berry

BBC WM (West Midlands)

In the owl-light, when loneliness shines / through your bones like a bare bulb, / she'll come for you, little herald / carrying missives from the dark.

def | a large moth.

The word first appears in written sources in the 19th century, where it is usually written as two separate words. Bobowler does not occur with much frequency in written sources. One exception is J. R. R. Tolkien’s use in the posthumously published novella Roverandom: 'It’s the black-velvet bob-owlers, flying all together in clouds, that I personally like least.' Tolkien spent his childhood in Birmingham and here we see him using a local word he was surely familiar with from that time in the fantastical context of the moon’s fauna.


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