Shouldn't verbs after "to do" always be infinitive? If so, then what's the purpose of adding the suffix "-s" ?

Image from Middle Earth- Shadow of Mordor || Gollum says: Don't hurts us!

Don't hurts us!


3 Answers 3


Gollum's speech is consistently shown as non-standard. He regularly adds an additional "-es" to already plural words (eg "pocketses"). This is a case of adding "-s" to a verb form that does not need it.

I'm not aware of any real dialect of English, or any common speech pathology, that has these characteristics: as far as I know, Tolkien invented it for the character. I guess that the choice of "s" as the additional sound was intended to make him sound sibilant and hissing.

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    I asked about the inspiration for Gollum's speech on our sister site Science Fiction & Fantasy.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 10:59
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    I don't know where it fits in terms of a "real dialect of English" or "common speech pathology", but in LOLspeak "the verb suffix “-s” that co-occurs with 3rd person singular nouns is often extended to use with other persons." (‘I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak’, in Proceedings of the 42nd Australian Linguistics Society Conference, 2011. PDF; quote p. 19.) Gawne calls LOLspeak "language play", & Tolkien was able to play with language at a very high level.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 14:04
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    I was told once that Tolkien based the speech for Gollum on the Sussex re-duplication of plurals Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 21:12
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    @ColinFine In her Rustic Speech and Folk-lore of 1913, Elizabeth Mary Wright writes on p. 144: “There is a general tendency in all dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng. to express the genitive plural by means of an additional syllable suffixed to the nominative plural, as: the farmerses cows. This is especially the case with the world folk, nom. pl. fōks, gen. pl. fōksǝs So I hypothesize that this non-standard addition of an //S// archiphoneme by rustics in all circumstances is something Tolkien will surely have known about, and was attempting to mimic. Feel free to cite this, or not.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 14:28
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    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 17:57

It's ungrammatical, but Tolkien knew what he was doing. It's possible that Gollum is purposely trying to sound childlike and pathetic here. Tolkien might also have been trying to represent that Gollum, who had spent centuries in hiding, spoke an archaic rural dialect. He similarly "translated" Westron as English and the dialects of the Shire, Rohan and Gondor as dialects of English.

Tolkien, as a scholar and translator of Middle English literature, was very aware that it had inflectional endings that have been lost. The Canterbury Tales, for example, contains the line, "Then longen folk to goon on pilgrimages." Someone who'd been cloistered as long as Gollum and spoke that way could still make himself understood, but it would sound bizarre to us, like they were adding a bunch of extra n sounds at the end of their verbs.

It would be consistent with Tolkien's approach for Smeagol to have spoken an older form of the Westron language retaining inflectional endings that by Frodo and Sam's time had been dropped. When Eowyn calls the Witch-King a dwimmerlaik, that's not a word in any dictionary; it's what Tolkien imagined the word dwœmerlak or demerlayk might have become in a dialect that split off from English about as long ago as the dialects of Rohan and the Shire.

On the other hand, Gollum does it even when he's trying to sound threatening, and his speech patterns were established in The Hobbit, before Tolkien had decided on Gollum's origin or had fleshed out his setting to that degree.

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    This is typical of Gollum's speech, not an isolated example. There is no reason to suppose that Gollum was trying to sound childlike and pathetic. And as I said, I'm not aware of any dialect of English that Gollum's speech approximates to, but Tolkien generally used real dialect features to represent his invented dialects.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:30
  • true. I regard grammatical forms as a more fundamental part of a dialect than vocabulary: that's what I was thinking of when I said "dialect features".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:59
  • Right. "Then longen folk to goon on pilgrimages," shows how verb endings have changed over time, and Tolkien was very familiar with that as a scholar and translator of Middle English. It would be consistent with his approach for Gollum to be speaking an older form of Westron, retaining inflectional suffixes that were later dropped. I don't have a direct citation, though.
    – Davislor
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:45
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    To the contrary, you will find it in ᴛʜᴇ Dictionary: the OED has an entry for demerlayk, where it mentions other forms ME dweomerlak, dweomerlac, ME demorlayk, ME demerlayk(e.. Moreover, this is not from lich meaning body: its etymology is < Middle English dweomer < Old English dwimer in gedwimor , -er, illusion, phantasm, gedwimere juggler, sorcerer + Middle English layk , -laik suffix play, < Old Norse leikr (= Old English lác). Compare dweomercraeft n.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 12:07
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    The four Middle English citations given for the word are these sentences: Tuhten to dæðe. mid drenche oðer mid dweomerlace oðer mid steles bite. Þa sende Asscanius..after heom ȝend þat lond þe cuþen dweomerlakes song. All þis demerlayke he did bot be þe deuyllis craftis. Deuinores of demorlaykes þat dremes cowþe rede. Considering the treatment of Tolkien’s use of the word the OED editors present in their The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, I bet that’ll get updated soon enough.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 14:42

As mentioned in the other responses, Tolkien was a philologist and, from what I know, used a lot of elements from different languages to make the characters more vibrant. For example, Elvish was vaguely based on Uralic languages family (such as Finnish).

So in my opinion, the -s suffix could have been a way to highlight the "aliennes" of Gollum in this way:

In some varieties of English, particularly northern English, Scottish, US Southern and AAVE, the -s can be extended to other persons/numbers as well, as in: I eats me spinach; I hates the Yankee nation and everything they do; They likes it here; etc.

and additionally add the self-deprecating meaning of -s suffix from Slavic languages to highlight his self-loathing.

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