In The Hobbit (or at least in my edition, HarperCollins 2011), the word ‘cram’ is italicised wherever it appears. Cram is (as according to Chapter XIII, Not at Home)
biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise. It was made by the Lake-men for long journeys.
My question is, why is it italicised? I know Tolkien capitalised certain things for emphasis, or because they were concepts that deserved capitalisation, like ‘the Wide World’ or ‘the Doom of Man’, but this seems different; it’s not something important, and in this case it’s italicised. Why did Tolkien italicise it?
An example of usage, from the same chapter:
...there they rested for a while and had such a breakfast as they could, chiefly cram and water.