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I have a question:
it's been months that I watch movies for improving my listening skill(it was quite awful:-D). now my question. I know that we should use "warlord" instead of "Lord of war" or "landlord" instead of "Lord of land" but I don't know why "The lord of the rings" is correct? isn't it better to use Ringslord ???
I meant how to know when I should use "of" ?

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It would be "ringlord" and not "ringslord", because s is usually dropped when combining words. But apart from that, I think it was an arbitrary decision that Tolkien made. And in fact, searching his books, Tolkien did use "Ringlord" at least once in them. So I think the answer is that if there's an established phrase, you should use it (assuming it means what you want it to). And otherwise, it doesn't matter. –  Peter Shor Feb 5 '12 at 19:39
    
The Lord of the Rings was published in the mid-50s, about the same time as William Golding's Lord of the Flies. I can just about imagine Ringlord might have worked, but Flylord? –  FumbleFingers Feb 6 '12 at 4:12
    
@FumbleFingers: As I suggested in my answer, I don't think "Ringlord" would have been possible in the 50s: I think it's an example of a formation which has arisen since, within the genre of "fantasy" which Lin Carter and others invented on the back of Tolkien. –  Colin Fine Feb 9 '12 at 16:45
    
@Colin Fine: You're quite right, of course. Forms like warlord, sealord, landlord were around a long time ago, but the mechanism only really become productive again to generate timelord, ringlord, druglord, slumlord maybe 30-40 years ago. But I still doubt that if Golding were writing today he'd opt for Flylord! –  FumbleFingers Feb 9 '12 at 18:08
    
@FumbleFingers: actually I don't think "sealord" was. The OED lists "sea-lord" (not "sealord") but all three of the examples it cites use "sea lord" (not "sea-lord")! –  Colin Fine Feb 10 '12 at 12:57
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Warlord" and "landlord" are English words.

"Lord of war" and "lord of land" do not happen to be established English phrases, but they can certainly be used: but they do not mean the same as the words. (For example, a "landlord" may be quite a humble person, provided only that they have some property which is let to somebody else - and that is leaving aside the special meaning of "landlord" as "publican" or "proprietor of a pub").

In a feudal setting, you could reasonably use the phrase "lord of the land" - this would mean the lord who ruled over the land: a quite different meaning from "landlord".

In the case the Rings, neither "Ringlord" nor "Lord of the rings" existed in English before Tolkien wrote them, as far as I know. We cannot know why he used the phrase for the title, but my guess is

  1. it has a more sonorous sound
  2. at the time he wrote it, I think that using a neologism like "Ringlord" in the title of a book would have puzzled both editors and readers.
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Convention. When a given term becomes standard currency for a set of users, that usage is considered correct. Take, for example, "it's me" vs. 'it is I". Most people would accept that "it's me" is the modern conventional form, and therefore correct. Whereas, some might reject "it is I" as archaic.

There are basically two kinds of grammarians: prescriptive and descriptive. Prescriptive essentially means that rules are derived from theory. Descriptive means that rules are deduced from practice.

Thus, the short response to your question is that you should go with what is conventional usage. Usually, you'll find such to be generally acceptable (intelligible) to most users with whom you intend to communicate.

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That's not really what those words mean. A descriptive text or utterance or attitude describes things without assigning value or preference to them; a prescriptive text, etc., assigns value and/or preference. –  Cerberus Feb 5 '12 at 19:57
    
The point is "grammar" and the approach one takes in its application. Thus, "meaning" here, as used by you is prescriptive and normative, i.e. taken from a book and presented as binding. It assigns value based on a priori, theoretical conjecture. However, the "meaning" that I described arises from the approach taken in arriving at a given conclusion regarding language usage. To reiterate. Descriptive grammar seeks to discover rules. Prescriptive grammar seeks to create rules to which others are expected to adhere. –  Jack Robbin Feb 5 '12 at 20:21
    
You prescribe this definition, I prescribe another. They are both prescriptive. –  Cerberus Feb 5 '12 at 21:09
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Describing a usage is one thing, arguing on the behalf of its legitimacy quite another. Arguing with me is not describing; if you were purely descriptive, you would just smile and nod. –  Cerberus Feb 6 '12 at 2:30
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@FumbleFingers: That seems wise; now convince the rest of the world! –  Cerberus Feb 6 '12 at 16:53
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