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Neck of the woods.

Posted by James Briggs on January 10, 2004

In Reply to: Neck of the woods. posted by SMokey Stover on January 10, 2004

: : : My "neck of the woods". Why is it a neck??

: : Until someone else can provide a more complete and definitive answer, try this one. "Neck" was once a common geographical term, referring, I imagine, to some configuration resembling a neck. In the case of a woods, along the edges of the woods there might be several narrowing projections or salients, bulges or peninsulae of a sort. "My neck of the woods" would be one such bulge. However, I can't really explain such terms as "Penn's neck" or "Dutch neck," both of which refer to communities in my area. Today there is nothing neck-like about them; but perhaps there once was. (The next PF will give more and better information.) SS

: Or you may prefer the definition in OED Online: neck n.1, 7b. orig U.S. A narrow stretch of wood, pastures, ice, etc. Now usually in neck of the woods: a settlement in wooded country, or a small or remotely situated community. . . in this neck of the woods: in the vicinity, around here .....

I've posted this before, but it seems worth repeating:
Neck: If you are speaking about where you live you might say "in my neck of the woods". Why "neck"? This is an example of a Fossil word in which an old meaning has been preserved in only one or two special sayings. Short shrift is another. In the case of neck the ancestor words in Old Breton (cnoch) and Old High German (hnack) both had a meaning of "hill" or "summit". This sense has been lost in all other uses of the word neck.
The origin is older than the US of A.