Kim from Old Mission called
to say that a word caught his attention while he was watching The Hobbit. At
one point, the character Gandalf says something like, “At least he had the nous to get out of this situation.” In
context, Kim reported, nous seemed
to mean intelligence or knowledge.
Nous is an Anglicized
version of a Greek word. Some pronounce it to sound like house or mouse, while
others prefer the sound from goose or
moose. In Greek, the original noos (νοοσ) would have been pronounced as two syllables, no-ahss.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the
author of The Hobbit, was an expert in Old English and various
Germanic/Scandinavian languages, but he had been educated in the classical
tradition, which meant attaining proficiency in Latin and Greek. So when he
made up a Middle Earth vocabulary and language, he drew on all of these
In Greek, nous developed and expanded into many
shades of intelligence. In various contexts, it could mean mind, sense, wit,
reason, understanding, resolve, intention, intuition, and countless other
variations. But in the quote from Gandalf given above, knowledge or common
sense will do just fine.
Listen to Mike’s program in real
time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com
and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll
also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show. Look for the section called Words to the Wise.