neck

Of the anatomical terms we have transferred to landscape—head, foot, arm, elbow, finger, mouth, tongue, tooth, nose, spine, teat—neck may be the most versatile. Early colonists brought the Old World sense of the term as isthmus or peninsula (Great Neck on Long Island), then extended it to mean a narrow stretch of land between tidal creeks. As George R. Stewart writes in Names on the Land, “Any land between two arms of water was a neck,” with or without a prominent head, or headland. This usage gave rise to “neck of the woods,” a forest settlement. A narrow stretch of water, too—a tight strait or inlet—is sometimes called a neck. In volcanic landscapes, a neck is a mass of lava solidified in a volcanic pipe and exposed by erosion, such as the summit pinnacles of Mount Washington and Three Fingered Jack in the Oregon Cascades. Shiprock Peak—in Navajo, Tsé Bit ’A’í, or “The Rock with Wings,” is a dramatic volcanic neck in northwestern New Mexico.

John Daniel