The goblet with the hobbit has the wine that is fine

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, about gobs and goblets:


(#1) Wayno’s title: “Liquid Economics” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Start with the straightforward stuff: goblet vs. gob, with goblet playfully treated here as if it were gob + diminutive –let.

Raw lexical materials, from NOAD:

noun goblet:  [a] a drinking glass with a foot and a stem. [b] archaic a metal or glass bowl-shaped drinking cup, sometimes with a foot and a cover. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French gobelet, diminutive of gobel ‘cup’, of unknown origin.


(#2) A water goblet

noun gob-1: informal  1 [a] a lump or clot of a slimy or viscous substance: a gob of phlegm. [b] North American a small lump. 2 [sense development from 1] (gobs ofNorth American a lot of: he wants to make gobs of money selling cassettes. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French gobe ‘mouthful, lump’, from gober‘to swallow, gulp’, perhaps of Celtic origin. [Note: sense 2 of this lexical item is presumably the relevant one in #1]

noun gob-2: informal, dated an American sailor. ORIGIN early 20th century: of unknown origin. [Not pursued here, but this could certainly be used for goblet jokes involving small (in any of several possible senses) sailors.]

noun gob-3:| British informal a person’s mouth: Jean told him to shut his big gob. ORIGIN mid 16th century: perhaps from Scottish Gaelic gob‘beak, mouth’. [Again, possible jokes, now turning on small mouths. I note that I have a small mouth and shallow oral cavity, definitely a goblet.]

Analyzing words. From Michael Quinion’s affixes site about the productive derivational suffix –let

A thing of a smaller or lesser kind. [Originally from French -ette, added to nouns ending in -el.]

… The ending became popular in the eighteenth century; in the nineteenth century it became — and remains — a common word-forming element in the language. Most suggest something small of its kind, though this idea has softened in some with the passage of time. Examples include booklet, cloudlet, droplet, hooklet, leaflet, moonlet, notelet, piglet, ringlet, rootlet, starlet, statelet, streamlet, and wavelet.

And many nonce or jokey formations, like dicklet ‘small penis’. The formative is clearly productive in modern English.

On the other hand, there’s a big pile of items in –let that have that element etymologically, but this fact is out of the consciousnss of modern speakers: bracelet, for example. And, yes, goblet, etymologically a small gobel ‘cup’, not a small gob. Not that modern speakers know this, nor should they.

The etymology of goblet doesn’t touch in any way on the joke in #1. As far as modern speakers are concerned, goblet is unanayzable, so the analysis into gob + –let is a sweet joke, implying the existence of a larger piece of drinkware, a gob. Hence, #1.

Actual goblets. Water goblet above. But the cartoon reference appears to be to wine goblets, which come in glass, various kinds of metal, and even pottery, as in these Castroville Pottery stoneware wine goblets  (local plug: Castroville in Monterey County CA , “the artichoke capital of the world” — yes, truly excellent artichokes):


(#2) Castroville wine goblets

Most memorably, no doubt, in the Goblet of Fire, of Harry Potter fame:


(#3) A DVD cover

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a fantasy book written by British author J. K. Rowling and the fourth novel in the Harry Potter series. It follows Harry Potter, a wizard in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the mystery surrounding the entry of Harry’s name into the Triwizard Tournament, in which he is forced to compete. … The champions are chosen by the Goblet of Fire from names dropped into it.

The book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury and in the United States by Scholastic. In both countries, the release date was 8 July 2000.

… The book was adapted into a film, released worldwide on 18 November 2005, and a video game by Electronic Arts.

The Court Jester. The ultimate in drinking-vessel movies. From Wikipedia:

The Court Jester is a 1956 musical-comedy film starring Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury and Cecil Parker. The movie was co-written, co-directed, and co-produced by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama…

This adventurous musical-comedy takes place in England after a coup d’état that leaves the rightful king without a throne. A ragtag team of rebels, led by a man called “The Black Fox” fights against the tyranny of the supposed king. The story follows Hubert Hawkings as he and the Black Fox’s captain concoct a plan to take back the crown from the impostor king and restore it to the real royal line. Hawkins must navigate treacherous advisers and witchcraft in order to survive and complete the task before him. The film is full of slap-stick comedy and comedic exchanges

Most notably, in a verbal formula Hawkins is given as he threads through the treachery, how to recognize a poisoned drink. You can watch the clip here (#4)

The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true

And I now add, non-canonically:

The goblet with the hobbit has the wine that is fine

Referring to  the hobbits of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. As represented in this Frodo hobbit goblet from the Royal Selangor company (one of, as it turns out, many hobbit goblets available on-line):


(#5) Company copy: “One of the smallest members of the Fellowship, but one with the gravest task. As Ringbearer, young Frodo Baggins must traverse Middle-earth to destroy the Master-Ring, gilt in 24K gold and forming the base of this unique goblet. It carries the infamous Black Speech inscription ‘Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul’. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.

(I’m not recommending this remarkable object, just reporting on it.)

gob– note 1. From NOAD:, yet another lexical item, historically unrelated to any of the others:

noun goblin: a mischievous, ugly, dwarflike creature of folklore. ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French gobelin, possibly related to German Kobold or to Greek kobalos‘mischievous goblin’. In medieval Latin Gobelinus occurs as the name of a mischievous spirit, said to haunt Évreux in northern France in the 12th century.

gob– note 2. From Wikipedia:

George Leslie Goebel [acting under the name George Gobel] (May 20, 1919 – February 24, 1991) was an American humorist, actor, and comedian. He was best known as the star of his own weekly comedy variety television series, The George Gobel Show, broadcasting from 1954 to 1959 on NBC, and on CBS from 1959 to 1960

… The centerpiece of Gobel’s comedy show was his monologue about his supposed past situations and experiences, with stories and sketches allegedly about his real-life wife, Alice (nicknamed “Spooky Old Alice”), played by actress Jeff Donnell… Gobel’s hesitant, almost shy delivery and penchant for tangled digressions were the chief sources of comedy, more important than the actual content of the stories. His monologues popularized several catchphrases, notably “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird” (spoken by the Kathy Bates character in the 1990 film Misery), “You can’t hardly get them like that no more” and “Well then there now” (spoken by James Dean during a brief imitation of Gobel in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause and as part of the closing lyric in Perry Como’s 1956 hit record “Juke Box Baby”).

Low-key for the 1950s.

gob– note 3. According to NOADgobble-1 ‘eat hurriedly’ is probably related to gob-1 above (the ‘viscous substance’ sense), while gobble-2 ‘make a (characteristic) sound in the throat’ is pretty transparentlly onomatopoetic.

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