I'm glad Perry and others are enjoying this thread - I think we need more of this kind of discussion on the Message Board.
Initially I started it hoping to join in, then was caught up in website discussions and proof-reading, so time slipped away.
As several people have said, a kenning dispenses with the original noun, replacing it with the figurative term (usually composed of two words, often [always?] two nouns) which captures its essence, like wave-rider or poison-stick. No mention of 'boat' or 'snake' in those.
'Star-salted sky', though a lovely phrase, is not a kenning, but 'sky salt' is. I would see 'sky salt' as hail, myself, catching the hardness of hail, and the fact that it is sprinkled. 'Sky feathers' sounds more like snow to me.
Isn't this fun? Beats work.
Thanks for setting up the interview link, Malcolm. I must find out how to do it some day.
David (Prometheus), some of us LIKE books! I finally got around to looking up kenning in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. (Shorter because it consists of just two huge volumes, instead of about sixty.) The entry for kenning is too long to reproduce here, but covers all the variant meanings, historical roots and quotations from early usage. Lovely!
Marjorie, I really like your point about when does a kenning become a euphemism. When indeed? Essay to be completed in three hours, write on one side of the paper only.
Yes, Rosalind, the Norse usage is even more widespread and often baffling, which leads us naturally on to Tolkien . . . Michael, when I was at Oxford, Tolkien had retired, but used to drop in to give the odd lecture. I would dodge my lectures on differential equations and sit at his feet while he held forth on 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', never a note in sight. He would pace up and down, gown and long grey hair flying, describing the forest with sweeping gestures. It was clearly Mirkwood.
And he, of course, was Gandalf. Tolkien, word-weaver.
This post was last edited by annswinfen, 12 Aug 2010, 12:07