Hanks of Hair and Gobbets of Flesh

By Maeve Maddox

I read this in a mystery novel:

A trapped cat would fight its cage until it tore off hanks of its own skin.

I can imagine that a cat might tear off strips or chunks or even hunks of skin, but not “hanks of skin.”

The word hank refers to something long and flexible like hair or yarn:

After selecting and measuring a new hank of hair I tie the end off tightly with very strong thread. (Directions for rehairing a violin bow.)

Many luxury yarns are sold in hanks, which must be wound into balls before you can knit with them. Here’s a quick and easy way to handle a hank of yarn.

Gobbet conveys the idea of a lump or clod of something:

She was spattered with blood, bits of cloth, and gobbets of smoking flesh. 

Gobbets of blubber spill to wind and weather.

The bubbles throw off small gobbets of hot mud.

Here are some words to convey a lump of something:
blob
chunk
clod
clot
clump
dollop
glob
gob
hunk
knob
nub
nugget
wad

Here are some words to convey the idea of something long and flexible, like a hank:
coil
skein
length
loop
twist
lock
ringlet
curl

Bonus: One of my favorite lines of creepy verse is this one in a poem by Kipling:

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair—
(Even as you or I!)

The poem was inspired by a painting by Burne-Jones.

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