"Hunkered down," 5 x 7 holiday greeting card
It's a hunkering down holiday season this year, and not just with cold weather coming.
I recently told some friends we were "hunkering down" to avoid any exposure in this exploding pandemic crisis, about the time I was painting a New Mexico snow scene with an adobe, thinking of people "hunkering down" against the cold.
I think it's more descriptive than the current "shelter in place" phrase that's been used this year, and I had to look the word up. Here's what I found.
“Hunker” (which is rarely heard without “down”) emerged in the Scots language in a 1720 poem. It referred to squatting down on the balls of one’s feet, keeping low to the ground but still ready to move if necessary. The word probably came from a Germanic root with descendants in other languages, all having to do with crouching, such as Dutch huiken, Old Norse húka and German hocke.
The Dictionary of the Scots Language gave examples going back to 1720, when the word appeared in a line of poetry: “And hunk’ring down upon the cald Grass.” In Scots, it could also describe a low squatting position as “sitting on one’s hunkers” or “sitting hunker-tottie.” The dictionary definition: " v. 1. intr. To squat with thighs, knees and ankles acutely bent; to seat oneself in a crouching position or on one's haunches. Freq. with doun. :
When “hunker down” entered American English, it took on metaphorical meanings. A list of regionalisms from southeast Missouri published in 1903 defined the phrase as “to get down to one’s work." And it's been revived in media coverage of recent hurricanes of people who ride out hurricanes, rather than evacuate.
Right now, we're just "hunkering down" trying to survive this pandemic.
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