Etymology
Advertisement
California 

name of an imaginary realm in "Las sergas de Esplandián" ("Exploits of Espladán"), a romance by Spanish writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, published in 1510. It was a sequel to his "Amadis de Gaula," and was said to have been influential among Spanish explorers of the New World. It could have led them to misidentify Baja California as this mythical land and to mistake it for an island. The Amadis tales are the Iberian equivalent of the Arthurian romances; they are older than 1510 (traces of them have been found mid-14c.) and were wildly popular. That conquistadors and sailors would have known the story in all its imaginative detail is hardly surprising.

Amadis de Gaula ... set a fashion: all later Spanish writers of books of chivalry adopted the machinery of Amadis de Gaula. Later knights were not less brave (they could not be braver than) Amadis; heroines were not less lovely (they could not be lovelier) than Oriana; there was nothing for it but to make the dragons more appalling, the giants larger, the wizards craftier, the magic castles more inaccessible, the enchanted lakes deeper. Subsequent books of chivalry are simple variants of the types in Amadis de Gaula: Cervantes made his barber describe it as 'the best of all books of this kind.' This verdict is essentially just. Amadis de Gaula was read everywhere, especially in the French version of Herberay des Essarts. It was done into Hebrew during the sixteenth century, and attracted readers as different as St Ignatius of Loyola and Henry of Navarre. Its vogue perhaps somewhat exceeded its merit, but its merits are not inconsiderable. [James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, "Spanish Literature," 1922 edition]

Where Montalvo got the name and what it means, if anything, is a mystery. In reference to the native inhabitants, Californian is attested from 1785 as an adjective, 1789 as a noun. The element Californium (1950) was named in reference to University of California, where it was discovered.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Hobbit (n.)

1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).

On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]

The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d. 1859) as an aside to his explanation that those born on Christmas Eve cannot see spirits. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland. This was printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications.

What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!

[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this. The word also was recorded from 1835 as "a term generally used in Wales to express a quantity made up of four Welsh pecks" [in English court records for Hughes vs. Humphreys, a weights-and-measures case]. Hobbitry attested from 1947.

Related entries & more 

Page 4