April 2, 2013

Case File #013.04.02: GNARLED

To be, or not to be—that is the question Hamlet pondered. But for the word gnarled, it took over 200 years to get an answer. Derived from the now archaic English word knar, which refers to a knot or protuberance on the trunk or root of a tree, gnarled first appeared in 1603 when Shakespeare coined it not in Hamlet but in Measure for Measure: “Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak than the soft myrtle....” That was the Bard of Avon's one and only use of his knotty new word, however, and gnarled did not show up again until the early nineteenth century, when it finally managed to twist its way into the English lexicon via the works of British poets such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and American writers such as Washington Irving.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

No comments:

Post a Comment