One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Soak (flax or hemp) in water to soften it and separate the fibers.
dampen, damp, moisten, humidifyView synonyms
- ‘Under old methods, hemp was cut and allowed to lie in the fields for weeks until it retted enough so the fiber could be pulled off by hand.’
- ‘Flax was grown in the country districts, ‘retted’ and ‘heckled’ in small ponds and mills, spun and woven in the single-storey ‘improved’ cottages of the villages.’
Late Middle English: related to Dutch reten, also to rot.
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