All akimbo

Looking back over what I’ve written since I started here, I came across my thoughts on the word ‘akimbo’, meaning ; it first appeared in English at the turn of the turn of the thirteenth century, spelled kenebowe; this may have been from a Middle English phrase, something like ‘keen bow’ meaning at a sharp angle, or maybe it came across the North sea from Scandinavia – there is an Icelandic word (and Icelandic derives from Old Norse)  kengboginn meaning bow-bent, but  apparently it wasn’t ever used as we use it. Since I wrote my original post, I have come to the conclusion that akimbo is another word which has had its original meaning changed by usage.

This is what I wrote before:

I wonder if any other language has a word for standing with your hands on your hips and your arms pointing outwards? Akimbo is such a strange word and is very often used in the wrong way, I’ve often heard people say, and seen it written, that someone had their legs akimbo, meaning they were lying down with their legs apart and presumably their knees pointing outwards. Well, no. If someone had their legs akimbo, somehow their feet would be on their hips… um, no! I’ve even heard people say “I was all akimbo” – really? Were you? I don’t think so, not all of you!

Akimbo comes from Old English, ‘kene bowe’ – kene meaning sharp and bowe meaning bow… so it means a shape like a sharp bow. Old English itself probably inherited it from Old Norse, so it is a word of long-standing. Having mentioned above the impossibility of having legs or anything else ‘akimbo’ the use has become so common that it is now accepted as  new or different usage, so maybe I had better get used to it (I don’t think I will though!!)


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