The Problem of Ros

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The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:10 pm

Posted by request... erm, well, at least Petty asked about it, after I brought it up. But not until I actually wrote this post did I realize just how pedantic a sleep aid it would be! So even if you (anyone) care about Tolkien's languages, please tread lightly so as not to wake anyone who might have started reading this.

In my audacity I think I understand the problem, however it may help to start with what I don't think it is.

Wikipedia currently wrotes: 'However, around the last four years of his life, Tolkien encountered a problem when he realized that he had stated that ros, which was meant in reference to Maedhros's reddish-brown hair, translated into “spray/spindrift”. He later made a note suggesting that he might change Maedhros to Maedron instead.'

This suggests that Tolkien had forgotten an earlier etymology, but there is no real evidence of that in my opinion. I think Tolkien certainly realized that the ros in Maedros' name referrered to reddish-brown hair, and that he had another -ros which meant 'spray, spindrift, foam.' He calls them homophones in the essay itself, knowing that they coexist.

In other words, Tolkien did not say: 'Oops -ros cannot mean red-brown because I realize it means foam' he said rather (in part) that it is difficult to accept these homophones in the Eldarin languages because they have unconnectable meanings. I'm not sure it is difficult in any case, but that's a different concern than implying Tolkien simply forgot one meaning, then felt bound by that one meaning.

I say he was fully aware of both words -- and back in Etymologies (late 1930s early 1940s), for example, Tolkien had the -ros in Maedhros meaning something different from the -ros in Elros, so there was already precedent for a homophone scenario with at least two meanings. Another opinion (on the web):

My understanding is this. Originally there were to be two separate Eldarin stems, one meaning "reddish-brown" and the other meaning "spray/spindrift".

Agreed so far, two are involved.

The change proposed in "Ros" is that there is only one stem, meaning "spray", and that this is Beorian. But this had to be dropped because of "Cair Andros".



I don't quite agree there. I think that the proposed change was to lift ros 'spray, spindrift' from an Eldarin context -- leaving the other word in an Eldarin context however. Tolkien wrote that it was difficult to accept these two homophonic elements in the Eldarin tongues, and so I think he wanted to alter one while leaving the other. In other words, if one is lifted, Tolkien's proposed difficulty of accepting the two homophonic elements is solved. This may seem like hair splitting but I think Christpher Tolkien's note has inspired some to leap to conclusions here. In a note to the text...

[added in the Margin: 'Though Maedros is now so long established that it would be difficult to alter'. In a later note, however, my father declared that he would change Maedros to Maedron.]


So the first is an actual note (from JRRT) to the essay itself, but the second reference comes from 'a later note' -- not a note to the essay on ros itself, and not in the ros essay itself. Despite the implication, we don't really know what is behind the proposed change to Maedron -- but my point is that it is not evidence that Tolkien was abandoning ros 'red brown' at this earlier point, as it isn't connected to the actual essay; it was rather a convenient place for Christopher Tolkien to raise this later note.

Thus the solution: the solution was not to abandon 'ros -red, brown' but to preserve it, because there would be no need to abandon it if -ros 'spray foam' is Beorian. And this Beorian characterization was itself the solution, but it failed, because Cair Andros was Sindarin not Beorian, and so Tolkien is back to his homophones in the same language family.


Would taking 'ros' red-brown out of the picture solve the same problem? yes. However is that necessarily what Tolkien was doing when he later mused about changing Maedros to Maedron? Not necessarily, as if ros 'red brown' was truly out of the picture one might imagine that it possibly affected other names: Russandol, Ambarussa, and Amros as well (Q. -russa S. -ros). In Sindarin Maedron might simply mean *shapely one, and Tolkien might have just liked this better at some point.

'The best solution of the difficulty presented by the name Elros, fixed by mention in The Lord of the Rings, and the names of the sons of Feanor: Maedros, the eldest, and Amros, now proposed as the name of both the twins (sixth and seventh) - to which a story is attached that it is desirable to retain.' JRRT

So Tolkien wrote his essay before he remembered alread published Cair Andros (not to mention already published Rauros). Again it's not unreasonable to think that the proposed change Maedros to Maedron represents Tolkien again trying to solve his problem, but in any case my point is that it was not part of the original solution, as it was unnecessary to take both words out of an Eldarin context.


Last edited by Elthir on Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:26 pm

I may not have followed this entirely Elthir but would a solution not be to keep both meannigs, keep both as homophones. And make Maedros the source of both. Bear with me.

Lets assume Meadros was distinguished amongst others by his hair colour and that was the original and only source for Ros. But his hairstyle was a bit swept up, thick and high like a wave crashing. And from that a certain type of wave got the nickname of Ros. Or you can have it the other way roud, ros was the spray, like stormy waves and becasue his hair resembled the shape he got the ros added to his name as a nickname, and because he had a notable hair colour it came through use to mean that as well.

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:08 pm

Funny that you should mention keeping both words, Petty, because elsewhere I have posted the question of why Tolkien found this necessarily problematic in the first place.

Now of course Tolkien knows so very much more about languages than I do -- I mean it's ridiculous to even compare my knowledge with any actual linguist, never mind JRR Tolkien! but it seems to me that languages can be surprising in ways, and (so far) I'm not sure why these two homophones, which I agree are not related in meaning, could not coexist in the Eldarin language family.

Tolkien's other problem here was that both words were too reminiscent of certain real words, or Primary World words, but he himself noted that this was the lesser difficulty, as such seeming congruences would not be that unexpected. Anyway, I've asked in at least one place on the web, and no one has really (so far) been able to explain why this would be all that problematic -- but obviously Tolkien thought it was problematic enough in any event.


As for Maedros' hair, while it may have been rare enough, in general he shared it with Mahtan, and his (Maedros') two younger brothers, both of whom were first named Ambarussa (Amros) in this conception, and I think Maedros was said to have worn a copper circlet as well. While your solution still seems possible in any case, I think a simpler one could be: borrowing -- that is, why not have ros 'foam, spray' still begin in Beorian (a Mannish language) and later enter the tounge of certain Sindarin speakers as a borrowing. Thus, Elros, Cair Andros and Rauros can all be Sindarin, even if that -ros originally hailed from Beor's folk in some way -- and ros 'red-brown, russet' remains, and always was, Eldarin. And I think, given the different meanings, context might help with respect to possible confusion (names might be more difficult however).


This happens often enough in the real world, and at one point at least (if I recall correctly) Tolkien even mused that the word atan was a Mannish word that the Elves had adopted, leaving Sindarin adan (as in Dunadan) with an ultimately Mannish derivation. I'm not sure if JRRT held to this particular idea, but I seem to recall him thinking about it anyway.

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Orwell on Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:49 am

I not sure I remember him thinking about it, but if you say so, Elthir, I guess it must be true.

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by halfwise on Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:22 pm

Elthir wrote:Posted by request... erm, well, at least Petty asked about it, after I brought it up. But not until I actually wrote this post did I realize just how pedantic a sleep aid it would be! So even if you (anyone) care about Tolkien's languages, please tread lightly so as not to wake anyone who might have started reading this.

This must count as among the greatest introductions to a thread. Razz 

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:24 am

Orwell wrote:I not sure I remember him thinking about it, but if you say so, Elthir, I guess it must be true.
Oh I say false things sometimes. I'll try to find the note however, I think I know where it might live.

Although this thread is making me drowsy agai.....zzzzzz.
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:44 pm

I didn't forget

From The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Many Meetings, published by you know who...

'The Dunadan,' said Bilbo. (...) 'But I thought you knew enough Elvish at least to know Dun-adan: Man of the West, Numenorean. But this is not the time for lessons!'
And from The Peoples of Middle-Earth, Of Dwarves And Men, author's note, note 38, written by you know who...

'... as the Atani (Sindarin Edain)*. These Atani...

*The name is said to be derived from atan 'man, human being as distinct from other creatures', a word used by that kindred which the Eldar first encountered in Beleriand. This was borrowed and adapted to Quenya and Sindarin; but later when Men of other kinds became known to the Eldar it became limited to Men of the Three Peoples who had become allies of the Eldar in Beleriand.'
I note also that atan being a Beorian word was not adopted by Christopher Tolkien for his 1977 Silmarillion. In any case, of course adan is still Elvish, even if it's ultimately based on a Mannish borrowing.

Back to ros

'Proposed solution: (...) both *ros and *wing could thus be removed from Eldarin. (...) Her sons she named Elros and Elrond; and after the manner of her brothers, the first ended in a Beorian word, and the second in an Elvish. Elros (...) contained the Beorian word for 'foam' and the white crest of waves*: ros. Its older form was roth (...).'

JRRT, The Problem of ROS, The Peoples of Middle-Earth
*Tolkien here adds a footnote after 'waves' to explain this word in the tongues of Men, as the Atani had never seen the Great Sea, at least, before they came to Beleriand.


But in this case Tolkien himself noted on the text that 'most of this fails' because of the name Cair Andros 'Ship of Long Foam', so [as Christopher Tolkien explains] he was forced to accept that the element -ros in Elros must be the same as that in Cair Andros, and the word must be Eldarin, not Beorian. Tolkien had published...


'This name means 'Ship of Long-foam'; for the Isle was shaped...'

Appendix A, footnote
It had also been explained [Appendix E] that in Grey-elven -nd- usually became -nn-, but remained in certain cases, including 'and also before r, as Andros 'long-foam'.


So -ros 'foam' certainly appears to be Sindarin. Also noting Rauros, which may contain 'spray of fall or fountain'.

But so did adan appear to be Elvish, according to Bilbo at least, yet this was, at least in origin, a Sindarin form based on a borrowed Mannish word.

Well, according to this note anyway Very Happy
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by David H on Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:22 pm

Elthir wrote:It had also been explained [Appendix E] that in Grey-elven -nd- usually became -nn-, but remained in certain cases, including 'and also before r, as Andros 'long-foam'.
Please clarify. Is that dependent on the shade of Grey?
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:47 pm

To clarify...

'... nd became nn usually, as Ennor 'Middle-earth', Q. Endóre, but remained nd at the end of fully accented monosyllables such as thond 'root' (cf. Morthond 'Blackroot'), and also before r, as Andros 'long-foam'. This nd is also seen in some ancient names derived from an older period, such as Nargothrond, Gondolin, Beleriand. In the Third Age final nd in long words had become n from nn, as in Ithilien, Rohan, Anórien.'

The Return of the King
As for 'grey' we have an older word in the Noldorin of the Etymologies text, the status of which may be uncertain in 'Sindarin' [I didn't check], but the word is...

gwind > gwinn 'blue-grey, pale blue or grey'

But since this word has but one syllable, if attested in Sindarin, it should perhaps remain *gwind according to the later, author-published account.


No white horses were mentioned in Appendix E however. And we all know what that means.

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by David H on Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:07 am

Thanks! That's much clearer! Very Happy  {{{{study scratch }}}}
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Wed Sep 04, 2013 6:20 pm

Oh it can get more confusing than that.

Etymologies scenario [Etymologies was ultimately abandoned as a text sometime during the writing of The Lord of the Rings]

Quenya: high language and book tongue, brought from Valinor by the Exiled Noldor.
Noldorin: language of the Noldor in Kor, greatly changed in Beleriand and much influenced by Ilkorin speech, especially that of Doriath.
Beleriandic: Ilkorin tongue of Beleriand, which had become in long ages very different from the tongues of Valinor.

So here the languages are not as later imagined, in the ultimate concept described in The Lord of the Rings, where the Noldor speak Quenya in Aman, bring it over to Beleriand, and are met with Sindarin speakers there. In other words, at this point they speak some form of 'Noldorin' and bring that along with Quenya. Some 'ros words' at this point were...

ROS1- distil, drip Q rosse fine rain, dew. N rhoss rain, cf. name Celebros Silver rain of a waterfall (...)' [Celebros is previously translated 'Silver Foam']

ROS2- Dor. rost plain, wide land between mountains; cf. Nivrost [NIB], Radhrost [RAD].

RUS- flash, glitter of metal. Q. russe corruscation, + [+ means 'poetic or archaic'] sword-blade; ON russe polished metal (N + [poetic or archaic] rhoss chiefly found in names as Maedhros [MAD], Findros, Celebros etc, owing to coalescence with ROS1)'
Maedhros is [under MAD-] said to mean 'Pale-glitter' [RUS]'

I couldn't find Elros in Etymologies [admittedly I didn't look very hard], but it would seem to mean something like 'Elf + rain(of a waterfall)', or, as in a much later letter dated 1958 [letter 211]: 'Elf' + 'dew, spray (of fall or fountain)' where Elros was said to be found 'in' [or near the mouth of I guess] a cave with a fall of water over the entrance, and dabbling in the water, while Elrond was within the cave. It appears that the name Elros had arisen by the time Etymologies was written, anyway.

That said, in my opinion Tolkien seems to have abandoned this idea soon enough, for by 1959-1960 Elrond meant [see Quendi And Eldar] 'Star-dome' and Elros meant 'Star-glitter' -- rather than *Elf of the Cave and [again seemingly] *Elf of the spray [of a waterfall]. In Quendi And Eldar S. rond was noted to be from *rono 'arch over, roof in' and could be applied to both natural and artificial structures, but its view was always from below and from the inside. Common Eldarin *rondo meant:

'a vaulted or arched roof, as seen from below and usually not visible from outside, or a large hall or chamber so roofed. It was still often applied pictorially to the heavens after the Elves had obtained much greater knowledge of 'Star-lore' Cf. the name Elrond 'Star-dome' (...)'
Anyone still awake may continue Rolling Eyes 

1968 or later [although I might have already noted some of this, it will be a better sleep aid if I repeat it]

Here Elros and Elrond are said to have been formed to recall the name of Elwing, and Elros is said to mean 'star foam', sc, starlit foam' [Shibboleth] and according to The Problem of ROS itself, Elros was supposed to contain a word from a base ROS 'spray, spindrift' (as scattered by a wind from a fountain, waterfall, or breaking waves'

The other ros is a colour word, referring to the red-brown hair of three of Feanor's sons. Concerning the names, this is from Quenya russa, where Russandol and Ambarussa and the other Ambarussa are rendered into Sindarin Maedros, Amros, and the other Amros. Maedros now does not mean 'Pale glitter' in any case.

And Elrond is...

'... a word for the firmament, the starry dome as it appeared like a roof to Arda; and it was given by Elwing in memory of the great Hall of the throne of Elwe in the midst of his stronghold of Menegroth that was called the Menelrond, because by the arts of Melian its high arched roof had been adorned with silver and gems set in the order and figures of the stars in the Dome of Valmar in Aman, whence Melian came.'
About the Dome of Valmar... well that's another issue Very Happy
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by David H on Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:14 pm

Elthir wrote:ROS1- distil, drip Q rosse fine rain, dew. N rhoss rain, cf. name Celebros Silver rain of a waterfall (...)' [Celebros is previously translated 'Silver Foam']
So wait... Is that the same colour as Shadowfax Shocked ?

This is indeed becoming a can of worms!:facepalm:
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Thu Sep 05, 2013 4:22 pm

Celebroch?

Perhaps for Mithrandir, rather Mithroch with a celebrin quality at times [mith 'grey, light grey']. A shadow-mith, to force in some Sindarin!
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Eldorion on Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:30 pm

I have a problem with a guy named Ross, can you lot help me out?
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:42 pm

Depends on the problem- have you tried giving him a Glasgow Kiss? That usually works. Twisted Evil 

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:39 pm

Eldorion wrote:I have a problem with a guy named Ross, can you lot help me out?
Possibly... if it's his family name, and he is German, then his name might mean 'horse'. Assuming this it true and you didn't know, and that not knowing that was the problem, then, you're welcome. I found this on the web too...

4) A descriptive name from the Middle English rous, meaning 'red-haired.'
... but it's on the web so it might be nonsense. This post is on the web too.


As Petty rightly noted we need to know the problem. I'm just assuming that etymology is at the... root of it Wink
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:56 pm

I didnt know the red hair one Elthir, I wonder if thats a later association ini Middle English with the people of Scotland as here Ross, or Ros from gaelic means 'Headland' some say this refers to the Black Isle, but in keeping with the deeper Germanic route you mentioned I think it more likely means Orkney, which in Norse was called Hrossay, meaning 'horse island' (I'm sure a Fjordian can correct me if thats wrong).

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Wed Sep 11, 2013 4:14 pm

Interesting Petty! Your use of headland [1. A point of land, usually high and with a sheer drop, extending out into a body of water; a promontory] made me look back at the Rôs of The Book of Lost Tales, although there I became somewhat confused. Christopher Tolkien guessed...

'The promontory of Rôs is perhaps Brittany', but then he goes on to note that Rôs, in other places in the notes, is seemingly the 'capital' of Eressea, then possibly a name for Tol Eressea itself; and then he adds that the Gnomish Lexicon gives yet another meaning 'the Sea' (Qenya Rása).

Anyway, back to the problem of ros: I should add [the actual quote] that there are two problems of ros from the outset, but the second one Tolkien was seemingly prepared to accept. The second one was:

'It is also unfortunate that the first appears too reminiscent of Latin rōs ['dew'] or Greek drosos, and the latter too close to well-known modern European 'red' words: as Latin russus, Italian rosso, English russet, rust, etc. However, the Elvish languages are inevitably full of such reminiscences, so that this is the lesser difficulty.'
Again the main difficulty being that [Tolkien thought] it was too difficult to accept these two homophonic elements of unconnectable meaning, as used in Sindarin or Sindarized names. Again, Tolkien would add in the margin: 'Though Maedros is now so long established that it would be difficult to alter.' [yet according to a later note Tolkien declared he would change Maedros to Maedron]

And although it's true that Maedhros was long established, it had meant 'Pale Glitter' however [seemingly the glitter of metal, although I'm not positive about that at the moment], and had not contained a 'red-brown' word in the late 1930s at least.

I'm not really sure [yet] when ros 'red-brown' entered the scenario. During the writing of The Lord of the Rings we get Rhosgobel 'russet' village', which is said to contain Sindarin rhosc 'brown' [The Lord of the Rings, A Reader's Companion, Hammond and Scull page 241]. In The Return of the King, Appendix E notes that RH represents a voiceless r, and is usually derived from older initial sr-, so we possibly have a base starting with *SR- here.

For the names Maedros and Amros however, we have a late note published in Vinyar Tengwar, referring to a Common Eldarin (u)rus...

... used of varying brownish red, brick-red to auburn -- this leads to Quenya rusko 'fox', russe a head or pelt of red hair, russa red-haired. S. rusc fox, ross red-haired, copper coloured, especially used of animals, as fox, red deer, and [?similar kind].

Thus we have russa in Quenya Russandol and Ambarussa, and Sindarin Maedros and Amros.
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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:59 pm

Bit of speculation but could Maedhros not have its original meaning, 'pale glitter' and then some event unknown occurs for which Maedhros becomes associated with 'brown-red'.
Over use and time it becomes contracted till only the ros element indicates red-brown remains.
This takes one final independent twist when it finally becomes associated with red and becomes a composite part of other words to indicate this.
So its source would ultimately still be Maedhros, but without altering the original meaning of his name, when given.

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Re: The Problem of Ros

Post by Elthir on Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:59 pm

Hmm, that seems a bit 'wild' to me Petty, and it seems to ignore not only that Maedhros appears to really be a different, older conception [which I have no great problem with at least here, for personal reasons* given below], but also the later idea in which we have both Quenya and Sindarin 'russet' words, and words for 'fox' and so on, meaning that these words existed independantly of the name and person of Maedros.

Unless I'm reading your proposal wrongly. Plus I'm not sure what event one could come up with with respect to 'red-brown' and the character of Maedhros here.

*As I love the form Maedhros and the meaning 'Pale glitter' [although technically the form that went with this meaning was Maidhros rather, which I don't think was merely an anglicization at this point], I too have attempted to try to imagine both [Maedhros, Maedros] names as internal. I'll note that I was told by an actual linguist that the name from the Noldorin of the Etymologies, with its meaning, just doesn't work in later Sindarin however -- not unless Tolkien made changes that allowed it to work, and so far we have no evidence that he did, at least in written form.

Thus, oddly, I really have no idea what Maedhros [the form used by Tolkien before The Shibboleth of Feanor was written and chosen by Christopher Tolkien for the 1977 Silmarillion] is supposed to mean. Some web sites simply relate that it means 'Pale Glitter' anyway, or 'Shapely + red-haired' -- but both of these things are simplifications in my opinion, or let's say, as far as I know.

Etymologies: when Maidhros was imagined in the mid to later 1930s it was a Noldorin name -- thus, in a language that the Noldor actually brought from Aman [again, as the language scenario was imagined at this time]. In an earlier entry for Etymologies [see Vinyar Tengwar 45] Tolkien had imagined two variant interpretations of this name: one Gondolic in the form of Maedhros from Maenros from N. maen 'skilled, clever with the hands', and one Feanorean: from maidh, Noldorin meidh 'pale, fallow, fawn'.

Tolkien revised this however, to: Noldorin meidh, maidh 'pale, fallow, fawn' and Maidhros 'pale-glitter' -- with glitter being from a poetic Noldorin word rhoss, and seemingly meaning 'glitter of metal' although rhoss is said to be found chiefly in names such as Maedhros [so spelled under RUS] Findros, Celebros 'owing to coalecence with Ros1' [thus 'rain' in ROS1].

Actually I just noticed that! This entry [RUS-] seems to be using Maedhros, the form found in the 'rejected' [earlier] entry where Maedhros in 'Gondolic' was from maen, not meidh, maidh. Hmm. Anyway...


In the ultimate scenario the Noldor of Aman spoke Quenya, so Tolkien had to explain Maedhros and all the other 'Noldorin' names -- which now became Sindarin names by default -- within this new history.

So now the first son of Feanor is called, in Quenya, Nelyafinwe [Father-name] and Maitimo 'shapely one' [Mother-name], and he is given the 'epesse' or nickname Russandol 'copper top'. Well maiti- 'shapely' in Sindarin is maed and Quenya russa becomes ros, so Maedros [not Maidhros or Maedhros] is a Sindarized combination of a mother name and a nickname.

So Tolkien explained it, although as far as I know the new name was not Maedhros [which is really Maethros with a voiced th] but Maedros [with a d].

And then later again he declared he would change it to Maedron!

Very Happy 

Add to that the rather confusing issue of anglicization, which is why we sometimes find Aiglos instead of Aeglos, and Maidros instead of Maedhros!
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Elthir
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