A direct debit beyond this mortal coil

5th October 2007 at 01:00
FEW WOULD deny the contribution to the English language of JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings.

He wrote some of the most famous books of the 20th century, and as a young lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary, he contributed the etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with "w". We have him to thank for the definitions of "walnut" and "walrus".

Now, the full extent of his contribution can be revealed. Tolkien, born in 1892, first taught English at Leeds University before taking up a professorship in Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He was a member of the National Association for the Teaching of English (Nate), paying his annual pound;2 fee by standing order.

Tolkien died in 1973 but, nearly 20 years later, a newly employed administrator was going through Nate's records, and found that Tolkien was still posthumously paying his dues.

Elaine Millard, Nate's chair, insists the association is seeking to broaden its membership among the living as well as the dead.

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