Sunday, October 31, 2010




1 : a mischievous goblin
2 : a source of fear, perplexity, or harassment

Question: Are there goblins that aren't mischievous?

Answer: M-W defines goblin as "an ugly or grotesque sprite that is usually mischievous and sometime evil and malicious. This would suggest that the hob holds the mischief. However, in the backwards world in which we live, it is the hob that translates to "sprite" or "elf," and the goblin that translates to "rogue." I think of Labyrinth, perhaps the modern authority on goblins. I would say, most of the film's goblins are recklessly mischievous. Hoggle is the exception, but he makes it clear to the audience early on that he is a dwarf. Or maybe an elf. I can't remember. But we know he's not a fairy or a goblin, which explains his redeemable qualities.

According to, not all goblins are bad:

In some cultures the prefix "hob" means good so that a hobgoblin referrers to a good goblin. In those cultures HOBGOBLINS are sometimes thought to, when in a good mood, help the household residents by doing chores while they sleep or even going so far as to help with the parenting by disciplining bad children and delivering gifts or good fortune to the good. However, in the American tradition all goblins are evil regardless of the hob prefix.

Curious. So, in this text it is the hob that designates the presence of good or evil. At least, in traditional goblin culture.
I wonder what it is about American goblins that make them so bitter and vindictive? Perhaps it's just a general European immigrant complex. Maybe goblins are the WOPs of the underworld.

Chew on this: if the hob means bad in certain cultural contexts, would that render HOBGOBLIN a double negative?

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