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Kenning

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Kenning

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Kenning is the use of circumlocution instead of a simple noun.

Example

He is the feeder of the bloody battle axe (= he is a warrior).

The clashing ring-feast of the darken day (midwinter festival).

Discussion

Circumlocution is talking around a subject rather than just naming it. Not naming something creates mystery and the confusion of uncertainty, thus encouraging others to pay attention in order to better understand.

Talking around the subject can also be a form of verbal painting, using visual and sensory images that otherwise would describe a dull subject.

As kenning is typically used in mythological prose and verse, it can be quite obscure and use strange combinations of words and other devices and figures.

Many devices and figures of speech are Roman or Greek in origin. Kenning comes from the tradition of old Norse and Icelandic mythology. The Old Norse word 'kenna' means  to know, recognise, perceive, feel, show or teach. The Scottish word 'ken' means to know or understand and comes from the same origin.

Classification: Omission, Distortion

See also

Storytelling, Story devices, Metaphor, Ellipsis

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