Bad hobbit

Brent Alloway, associate professor at Victoria University, is planning a free lecture next month at which two of the archaeologists involved in the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003. Alloway had planned to title the lecture “The Other Hobbit”, as Homo floresiensis is commonly known.

The Homo floresiensis, a one-metre-tall species of primitive human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores, has become widely known as “hobbits”.

When Alloway approached the Tolkien estate about the title of the lecture – that conveniently coincides with the premiere of The Hobbit film – he was told ‘No’. The Tolkien estate lawyer stated that “it is not possible for our client to allow generic use of the trade mark HOBBIT”.

Alloway has his own arguments: “The word ‘Hobbit’ is apparently listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (and hence apparently part of our English-speaking vocabulary), the word ‘Hobbit’ (in the Tolkien context) is frequently used with apparent impunity in the written press and reference to ‘Hobbit’ in the fossil context is frequently referred to in the scientific literature (and is even mentioned in Wikipedia on Homo floresiensis). I realise I’m in unfamiliar word proprietry territory (as an earth scientist) . . . so I’ve gone for the easiest option and simply changed our event title.”

MarkMatters.com is very curious about the new name of the lecture. Perhaps: “The homo formally known as Hobbit®”?

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