For work, I’m fixing up a lesson plan on Beowulf for high school students. In order to make kennings a little more understandable for the younger generations, I’m trying to think of contemporary pop culture examples of kennings (or, at least, things that function similar to kennings). The one example that immediately sprung to mind was “Skywalker” – Luke’s last name (of course, I just realized that high school students were probably not even born when the first Star Wars movies came out, but what can you do?)

For those who need to brush up on their kennings, here’s a nice compilation of research, with examples towards the bottom.

Suggestions? Ideas?

I wonder if Microserfs would be considered a kenning….

[EDIT: Comments are closed on this post]


7 Responses to Kennings

  1. Jason says:

    Alas. Coffee keeps me sharp in the morning.

    A good example indeed, but one that is not likely to capture the attention of a 16-year old. “Word,whaa?”

    Microsoft? Hmm. Kennings are hard.

  2. chuck says:

    I’ve been thinking in terms of hiphop culture, but no really good examples are coming to mind. Snoop Dogg? Old Dirty Bastard (again, may not be appropriate for the age group)? Or maybe Mafia style nicknames? Not sure this is quite right, but familiarity would be less of a factor.

  3. fritz says:

    rapper 50-Cent was recently quoted as claiming his name demonstrates that he’s “all about change.”

  4. George says:

    The wordplay in hip-hop is impressive, but these aren’t really examples of kennings. Other kennings from _Beowulf_ include “word hoard” (what the poet has) and “whale road” or “swan road” (for the sea). Check out a variety of definitions at

    I’m guessing, though, that there must be some examples from hip-hop.

  5. Jason says:

    Yeah, my impression is that a kenning is not only a type of compound word, but also a type of metaphor as well (or even a mini-riddle, of sorts).

    Plus, I’m not so sure the current administration would be thrilled with “Old Dirty Bastard” showing up in a lesson plan… 😉

  6. fritz says:

    what about “five-oh,” or “one time”.

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