Hmmm… this word looks like a shed that’s been pruned a bit. Maybe someone breezed by on a sled and sliced it… No, not sliced. Snipped. This is, after all, a /sn/ word, not a /sl/ word. The /sl/ words are slicker, sleeker, slipperier; they slash and slit, slide slenderly; they may be slow or sloppy or slack, but they still slurp, even if only slightly. With /sn/ words, the liquidity is replaced with a nasality, sniffing from the snoot – a snee may snicker, but a snout will snort snarkily or snap snidely.

Indeed, this is no snow sled, nor for that matter a shed that has shed or been shorn. But we do hear the /Ed/ rhyme, which stops with a dullness that treads towards the heavy, although words such as red and bread counterbalance dread and dead, and the echo of the poetic diction of the past tense, draggèd forth from time to time, gives it a tinge of gravitas with a whiff of fancy.

It adds a layer of flavour to this word – a verb, as it happens – to know that it is related to the verbs snithe and snathe. Ah, don’t those two have a sound! Snide and scathing, like Snape from the Harry Potter books… prone to cutting remarks. Well, actually pruning and making cutting marks. Snithe means “cut”; snathe means specifically “prune”. And so does sned. In particular, it refers to lopping off branches (or parts thereof). Such may be done, for instance, to a Christmas tree to give it a smart shape and to fit it into our warm dens… or, after Christmas, to fit it into the shed until it can be taken away. Send not to know for what the shear sneds… it sneds for thee; it sneds thy tree. Such are all our ends.

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