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Today's topic is "kenning"

Why? Because the word "kenning" is so very cool. It's from Old Icelandic (the language of the Vikings!), and means "to name after." If you're a poet, you've probably already employed kenning at some point in time. Ditto if you occasionally use flowery language when writing prose. Not that you'd have to use flowery language, just that it seems nearly definite for flowery writers, and only possible for the usual kind. Perhaps I should illustrate what kenning is so this will make more sense.

Kennings first appeared in Old English poems (think Beowulf) and in other Germanic languages, including Norse and Old Icelandic. To use one, you describe something in a roundabout way (using multiple words) rather than simply naming it. For instance, I might refer to my dog as "wolf-kin" instead of as "dog." Or one could refer to the beach as a "sea border" or something. Some metaphors count as kennings. For instance, according to my trusty Poetry Dictionary (from Writer's Digest), "battle" could be a "storm of swords". Not only a kenning, but also metaphor AND for super-bonus points, metonymy (one thing represented by others closely related to it -- e.g., "White House" to represent the President of the United States).


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 26th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
NOW you're talking my poetic language!

Word hoard!

Whale road!

Mmm-mmmmm, yummy.
Apr. 27th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
oh yeah, Kelly. love this post! Storm of swords indeed!
Apr. 27th, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)
I'm going to be so bummed when April ends and your amazing poetry posts give way to other topics :( Where will I find my form fix?
Apr. 27th, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
I'm going to continue doing poetry posts on Fridays, since so many folks have been enjoying them. Which is interesting to me, because when I started, I was so sure people would think I was a smarmy know-it-all and/or a complete idiot and/or a loser. Inner critics are hell, y'know?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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