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Neck of the Woods

River in the woods. neck of the woods

Neck of the Woods Definition

My neck of the woods.

  • A particular area or location, usually in relation to a particular person of group.
  • A familiar area to the subject of the conversation.

Neck of the Woods Examples

  • Hey Terrence! I haven’t seen you since we cross paths in Texas. What brings you to this neck of the woods?
  • I don’t know how comfortable you’ll be out here in this neck of the woods. We just got color TV five years ago!

Quotes

Could do what others have done, and attempt to reconstruct this lost past. I could research genealogy and genetics, search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche. I could also do what members of other cultures lacking myths have done: steal. A little BS about Atlantis here, some appropriation of other cultures’ intellectual property there, and bam! Instant historically-justified superiority. Worked great for the Nazis, new and old. Even today, white people in my neck of the woods call themselves “Caucasian”, most of them little realizing that the term and its history are as constructed as anything sold in the fantasy section of a bookstore.

N.K. Jemisin

The drive downtown is an experience unto itself. You’re controlled by this dark energy that’s about to take you to a place where you know you don’t belong at this stage in your life. You get on the 101 freeway and it’s night and it’s cool outside. It’s a pretty drive, and your heart is racing, your blood is flowing through your veins, an it’s kind of dangerous, because the people dealing are cut-throat, and there are cops everywhere. It’s not your neck of the woods anymore, now you’re coming from a nice house in the hills, driving a convertible Camaro.

Anthony Kiedis

Neck of the Woods Origin

Literary Origin

The word neck, when describing land, originally describes a narrow strip of land flanked by water on both sides. There is somewhat of a consensus that this usage is quite old and comes from England. It may even originate in the German language. Although I’ve found sources that state ‘neck of the woods’ used to describe a general piece of land is a uniquely American expression.

Our neighbor, excited by the sublimity of the change, which has taken place, in his neck of the woods, within the last few years. Runs away with himself, upon a race, madder than that of Phaeton with the chariot of the sun, and fairly revels in the field of fancy.

The Northern Standard, April 17, 1844

The earliest example of our phrase used as an idiom is from The Northern Standard newspaper circa 1844. The quote comes from an article criticizing The Marshall University for describing itself as the ‘Athens of Texas’. The Marshall University describes itself using a lot of Greek mythological imagery and grand metaphors. The author isn’t convinced and asks how one university can amount to the legendary Greek city of numerous grand schools that birthed some of the greatest scholars in history.

Spiritual Origin

Graunted to Samuell Morse y1 necke of medowe lying next
vnto yt medowes graunted vnto Edward Alleyn towards the North
to have it for a medowe Lott

Ralph Shepard Puritan, Ralph Hamilton Shepard, 1637 (original document)

The earliest example I’ve found of a similar phrase to our idiom is from Ralph Shepard, Puritan. This biographical tribute is written in the late 19th century by a descendant of the puritan Ralph Shepard. The book describes his life and uses actually documentation from his time. The passage above appears to be from the agenda of one of Dedham Massachusetts first town meetings! On the agenda is the granting of a sizeable ‘neck of meadow’ to a Mr. Samuel Morse.