Hedge- as a prefix

From the sixteenth century onwards, when prefixed to any word, “hedge” referred to something vile, or of the lowest class – from the contemptuous usage of “plying one’s trade under a hedge”. So there were hedge-doctors, hedge-lawyers, and even hedge-wenches.In Ireland, the Gaelic language and catholic culture were preserved in the period of the Penal Laws by hedge-schools, at which hedge-priests taught their pupils in secrecy behind the cover of the hedgerows.

This use of “hedge-” is nicely caught in a quote from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

“…beneath Cornwall, beyond and beneath this whole realm of England, beneath the sodden marches of Wales and the rough territory of the Sots border, there is another landscape… Who will swear the hobs and boggarts who live in the hedges and in hollow trees and the wild men who hide in the woods?”

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Filed under Hedge Politics, Historical Hedges, The Hedge Philosopher

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