If you are human, this word probably doesn’t stir up any feelings in you other than a bit of curiosity. If you are a frog or toad, however, this word produces an instinctive horror, a deep, dark terror from tales of long ago. This word sends shivers down your spine, causes your cold blood to run even colder, and makes you hop away and hide. This word is what your nightmares are made of, and you pray that the word never becomes popular again.
Exactly why is this word so scary if you happen to be a frog or toad? According to Merriam-Webster spanghew means, “to throw violently into the air; especially, to throw (a frog) into the air from the end of a stick.” Yes, believe it or not, that is the real definition of spanghew. Now, spanghew can be defined more generally as “to throw or jerk violently” and used in a sentence like this: “The horse spanghewed its rider.” Usually though it’s definition involves amphibians. Where did this word come from? Well, “spang” comes from the Scottish word that means “to spring, leap, or throw.” However, no one is quite sure where “hew” came from.
I did a Google search on the word and found a paragraph in an 1846 book called A Glossary of North Country Words, with Their Etymology, and Affinity to Other Languages: And Occasional Notices of Local Customs and Popular Superstitions, Volume 2 by John Trotter Brockett and William Edward Brockett. In this book, there is a paragraph about how one goes about spanghewing. Apparently, a person would place a long wooden board on a stepping stone, place the frog or toad on one end of the board, and then, with a club, strike the free end of the board sending the creature flying through the air to its doom. I’m not even sure what else to say after that, except to offer my apologies to frogs and toads everywhere.
I found a very short video of someone giving the definition and a sentence using the word:
Disclaimer: No frogs or toads were harmed in the writing of this post, and I definitely do not condone spanghewing any creature. 🙂