"pins & needles"?

Peter Richardson prichard at LINFIELD.EDU
Fri Oct 11 00:53:37 UTC 2002

John Baker just wrote asking about tenterhooks. In the Mission Mill Museum
in Salem, OR there's a very nice multi-story exhibit of wool processing:
washing, carding, dyeing, etc. up to the spinning and weaving. On the top
floor, around the large room where the spinning wheels live, are long pegs
driven into the adze-hewn posts, and those pegs are the tenterhooks. They
are used to dry the heavy hanks of washed wool before carding. I think
I've heard "tenderhooks" in the expression, an apparent folk etymology
that would impute an understandable meaning to _tenter_--although the
combination of _tender_ with _hook_ sounds like a stretch to me.

Peter R.

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