Unlock Your Word Hoard

Unlock Your Word Hoard

One of the fun aspects of Anglo-Saxon poetry (e.g., Beowulf) is the use of kennings, or circumlocutions that substitute a more abstract phrase for a concrete noun or idea. For instance:

  • "whale road" for ocean
  • "life house" for a body
  • "wrecker of mead benches" for a warrior
  • "unlock your word hoard" for making a formal speech

And these kennings sometimes show up boasts made in the course of formal speeches. Students wrote their own boasts in the Anglo-Saxon style, and today the two sections of British Lit had a "Boast-Off," pitting the three best boasts in each class against each other. One from each section is written below. 

Mr. O'Brien's Intermediate Lit students came to spectate, and voted on the winning side, which turned out to be (by a very narrow margin) Mr. Drummond's class. So, in great Beowulf style, we ripped off Mr. Boisvert's arm (à la Grendel's) and he continued with but one limb. Happily, he did not slink off to a swamp to die. 

Clair's Boast: I, Clair of Four Brothers    

I, Clair of Four Brothers     Solicitor of Stick-Stock
Daughter of John Joseph     The Baron of The Golden Grange
Am famed among kith and kin     As Poetess Supreme
With Warring Wails I and My Warriors
The Brothers of Breakage     We Conquer Countries
Many a warrior I have killed     Many a Warrior Cricket
With my mighty foot I have crushed ants as though they were ants
I have wiped the floor with a brawny bear
A ferocious stuffed animal bear
In my Book of Notes I have Secrets, 
Secrets so Secret     They would strangle you.
Do not anger the rhyme-smith     You shall regret it
For I will write nasty ditties about you
I, Clair of Four Brothers, dare the barbarous Boisvertians to beat that. 

Benny's Boast

I, Benny, of the witty house of whimsical Wassells
am son of the great warlord serpent-slayer Scott.
I the cheerful commander and chief of outdoor uproar
have fought for hours on the field of war, 
wooden war tool in hand, I have waged wrath on my foes.  
Hundreds of meat birds have choked at my hen hanger and
I’ve filled our freezers with stock and stomach stuffers. 
I best my brothers in battering combat
in dizzying duels of dazzling quickness. 
I’ve defended the bough house in brilliant battles
‘gainst Cain’s kin and kings clans alike.   
To warm my warband with flame fuel for winter
I split and I splinter tree souls in dozens.  
My mead hall is cozy and comfortably crafted
so I can out-sleep all my brave boned band.

Mr. Boisvert has his arm nailed to the wall, Grendel-style (beautifully traced by Mr. Drummond)