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Day: November 5, 2020

what’s the word?

what’s the word?

today’s word of the day: tenterhooks.

used in a sentence? “it’s safe to assume that all my readers are waiting on tenterhooks for the election results.”

so what’s the background on tenterhooks?

back in ye olde timey days, people would make their own woolen cloth. after it was woven, the cloth was still oily from the fleece (lanolin!) and dirty. it was cleaned and then it had to be dried in a certain way, or it would shrink – as those of us know who’ve accidentally thrown a wool sweater in the dryer.

but pre dryers, the cloth would be stretched out on a wooden frame called a tenter. and on the edges of the frame were hooks! hence, tenterhooks. i guess this could be a large-scale operation, with fields of wool-laden tenters oft seen by ye olde peasantry.

soon after the word became a word in the 14th century, on tenters became a phrase known for tension, unease, anxiety, or suspense. between the nervousness of keeping wool in shape and the tension of the stretched fabric, it’s an apt metaphor. also, sheep are skittish, so the whole operation was probably a lesson in patience.

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