Friday, September 01, 2006
lots of these: 'word'
where I heard it: last night, while Graham was recounting on a place called Fairyland in Newfoundland, he used the description 'harrowing' (or he was describing someone else's tale, I've forgotten already)
what it means: this one is interesting. as a 'harrow' is a farm implement, it's like an after-plough, and used to break the clods kicked up by the first ploughing. there is also an expression called the Harrowing of Hell, which is from the Apostle's Creed and didn't make it into the Nicene and is about Jesus' trip to Hell ('Sheol' in Hebrew) to get his Gameboy back from the Devil. and then the official line follows:
especially in harrowing of Hell in Christian theology, from hergian (see harry). In fig. sense of "to wound the feelings, distress greatly" it is first attested 1602 in Shakespeare. Harrowing (adj.) "extremely distressing, painful" first recorded 1810.
www.etymonline.com missed the ball with that one if you ask me, mostly because they forgot to include the etymology. the 'harry' bit offers a glimpse, but, to put into a working example, i don't think that 'the Vikings wounded the peasants' feelings' at all captures the raw nature of a classic, hearty pillaging. the synonym i think of is 'scarifying', but it doesn't quite deliver the gothic tension the way 'harrow' does.
i also intend to use the word 'plough' more, especially this weekend. 'Gameboy' is really funny too, if taken back into context.