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BY HOOK OR BY CROOK - As we all know hunting was one of the favourite pastimes of kings. The kings loved the chase – or the hunt. And that meant they needed a lot of forest land. And over time, more and more land in England had been designated as royal forest land. 

Violators could only be punished with a fine or, if they failed to pay, with imprisonment.
A peasant was not allowed to take an axe and chop down trees, but he could remove damaged limbs and brush. 

So you may be wondering how a peasant or farmer collected the limbs and branches if he couldn’t use an axe? Well, he was permitted to use a HOOK - shaped tool to reach up and pull down damaged limbs or branches. As long as he could reach them with his hook and pull them down, he was fine. 'HOOK' is an Old English word. But around the current point in history, the Norse word CROOK started to appear in English for the first time. CROOK also referred to a HOOK-shaped tool – especially the type used by shepherds. So a peasant was entitled to collect all that he could gather with a HOOK or a CROOK in the common lands or on the lands of his landlord. And this is the most popular explanation for the phrase “BY HOOK OR BY CROOK” to mean ‘BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.' 

A version of that phrase appears as early as the late 1300s. There are some other theories about the origin of that phrase, but this connection to forest land appears to carry the most weight. 

The forest had a specific provision requiring certain officers to inspect the forest to make sure that there were no violations or encroachments. These officers were called REGARDERS. The word appears in Latin but it was soon borrowed into English. The REGARDERS were twelve knights who were chosen as officers of the forest. The inspection of the forest was called a 'REGARD' and the area under the jurisdiction of a REGARDERS was also called a 'REGARD'. 

The regarders were inspectors who guarded and protected the respective rights of the King and the people in the forest. And that helps to explain the etymology of the word regard. 

REGARD is a combination of the prefix -re and the word guard meaning ‘to protect.’ The word also had a broader meaning to inspect or consider something. And this still survives in Modern English. When we REGARD something today, we take it under consideration. 

And notice that today, a modern officer of the forest is sometimes called a GAME WARDEN, especially in the US. So a medieval regarder is a modern game warden. REGARDER is the Old French form of the word, and GAME WARDEN is the Norman form. 

So if GUARD and WARD are ultimately the same words, does that mean that REGARD and REWARD are also two different versions of the same word? 
Well, yes. The words REGARD and REWARD once existed side-by-side in English, and they had the exact same meaning. One was the Old French form, and one was the Norman form. Both words meant ‘to regard or consider or determine something.’ But over time, English started to distinguish the two words.

REGARD was used to refer to the process of considering or inspecting something, and 'REWARD' was used to refer to the consequences of that inspection. 
So if you were in violation of forest laws or any other laws, you might be punished. But if you were in compliance, you might receive some benefit or token of appreciation. 

Believe it or not, 'REWARD' could be used both ways in Middle English. If you were fined or imprisoned or punished for a violation, that was sometimes called a REWARD. But that negative sense of the word died out over time. Obviously, the positive sense survived. And today we associate a REWARD with good behaviour and as a benefit for some accomplishment.

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