Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Daily Hump: Henge

I used the word henge yesterday to describe the structure of books I erected (heh) on my desk. One of my coworkers looked at me quizzically, obviously not understanding what I meant. When disambiguated from its usual primary element, stone-, I suppose henge looks pretty odd.

As I began my research I started to doubt whether henge is really a word; for one, it's not in the American Heritage Dictionary. The oft-cribbed (by me) Online Etymology Dictionary simply states henge, from 1740, is noted as a Yorkshire term for Stonehenge-like structures. I needed more hump fodder than that. Finally, the site English Heritage came through defining henge as
...a roughly circular or oval-shaped flat area over 20m in diameter which is enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork that usually comprises a ditch with an external bank. Access to the interior is obtained by way of one, two, or four entrances through the earthwork. Internal components may include portal settings, timber circles, post rings, stone circles, four-stone settings, monoliths, standing posts, pits, coves, post alignments, stone alignments, burials, central mounds, and stakeholes.
Ah, but what of the etymology? Thankfully we have the OED, which defines henge as "In particular reference to the name Stonehenge; something 'hanging' or in suspense." Notice the OED puts hanging in quotes; that's because henge, first coined with the use of the name Stonehenge in the 12th c., likely comes from the same Old English root as our modern word hang.

henge [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 8:01 AM


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