BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

K is for KENNING

kI wasn’t familiar with this word before (except in its Scots form to ken, to know). It has its origins in the Old Norse phrase kenna eitt við, which means “to express a thing in terms of another”. It is a literary device used in Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic poetry to make new compound words or phrases that force you to stop and think.

Here’s some examples I’ve found:

THE SEA — whale road
A WARRIOR — shield-tester
BLOOD — battle sweat
BODY — bone house
SUN — sky candle

icelandic manuscript, about 1350 Deutsch: Das ...

icelandic manuscript, about 1350  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kenning doesn’t happen that often in modern English but when it works, it really works and it’s an excellent vehicle for sarcasm. See for yourself.

TODDLERS — rug rats
OVER RELIGIOUS PEOPLE — bible thumpers/ sky pilots
HORRIBLE TATTOOS — tramp-stamps
ATTRACTIVE GIRL — eye candy
LAZY PERSON — couch potato

And I found this out doing something that is best described by another modern kenning – web surfing.

Come across any other kennings?

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This entry was posted on April 12, 2013 by in A-Z Challenge 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , .
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