Definition: A tax on a ‘hide’ of land
A ‘Hide’ was an old measurement for land. It was loosely defined as the amount of land needed to feed a family and has historically applied to tracts of land between 60 and 120 acres. The ‘hide’ is an old idea with Proto-Indu-European roots. It made its way into the English language via proto-Germanic. The idea of using this measure of land as a taxation basis developed with the Anglo Saxons and was continued when the Normans arrived in England.
Why this word?
The obsolete of the word ‘hide’ and hideage says something about how we measure things today. The loose concept of ‘enough land to feed a family’ simply wouldn’t work in today’s world – yet it was a concept that survived for thousands of years. It is a symbol, perhaps, of something lost.
How to use this word:
Unless there is an agrarian revolution and the idea of measuring land based on whether it can sustain a family comes back into vogue, hidage will remain obsolete.
But there may be another way to use this word – a way to break it completely from its past and re-invent it. We have ‘luggage’ to refer to things that we lug around. We have ‘baggage’, referring to things that put in bags. We even have ‘steerage’, originally referring to the area that housed the steering mechanism on a ship.
So why not hidage – things that are/need to be/should be hidden. Where’s that dreadful sweater your grandmother knitted you from purple camel wool? It’s in the attic, with the rest of the hidage.