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A kenning is a special kind of metaphor often used in Old Norse poetry, which is based on the interrelation of four concepts. For instance, if we say:

lo'e risna cu bu'a lo'e remna .ije lo'e matra cu bu'a lo'e karce

(a heart is to a human what a motor is to a car), we get four metaphors:

  • remna matra (risna)
  • karce risna (matra)
  • matra remna (karce)
  • risna karce (remna)

More thorough explanations can be found at [1] and [2].

Tanru are "binary compounds". Kennings are "compound metaphors", often of

two units & thus deceptively resembling the former. In tanru, the modifying

gismu limits the scope of the modified, or together they specify the area of

their overlap. A kenning paints a picture; one term sets the context, the

other makes a metaphorical substitution that suggests the referent WITHIN

this context (famous example: "tunafish is 'chicken of the sea'"). A kenning

is really a kind of naming (hence my me la). "Rug rats" does not mean

loltaxfu ratcu & it would be seriously misleading to turn this into a


Kennings: okay, then, there is one term which stands for--no, that's

a metaphor too--HAS AS ITS REFERENT the referent of another word we

have decided not to use, for poetic reasons. The choice of the substitute word depends (that means: 'hangs from' but REALLY--) upon either

phonic or associational considerations or both. It comes from,

in Old Norse usage, one well-defined semantic field such that the

choice of the second term creates a sense of paradox by coming from

a very different, or opposite, semantic field; & then there is the

(somewhat optional) additional requirement that these two terms are

unlike in a different way (usually, abstract/paticular) which creates

a second paradoxicalness. And there is an implied simile in the choice

of the first term but not the second, purely arbitrary one. (But it is

often more conventional a simile or even practically nonexistent in

resemblance to the untraditional mind.)--Anyway, those semantic & conceptual oppositions are not requirements in the expanded sense of

"kenning" i was using in order to include all the similar devices

across cultures. But most good ones have them to some degree. "Rug

Rats" for example combines something that a house is glad to have,

with something it isn't. "Skyscraper" is a good one (in english!)

for combining a solid with an ethereal, & alliterating.