Saturday, January 12, 2019


"Cleaving" is like "flammable."  It can mean the opposite of itself.

Sometimes cleaving means clinging, hanging on, being right there, attached.
Sometimes cleaving means splitting or cutting or dividing.

Someone blogged recently about cloves of garlic, and discovering the difference between a "head" and a "clove."  So I asked Maggie if she knew the difference.  And it got me to thinking: why is a clove called a clove?

"Clove" is past tense of "cleave."

A cloven hoof is a hoof with two parts.  One part that's split into two, but not really two, because it's still one hoof.

Even when we use the word "cleave" to mean "split," it still indicates the closeness of what was being split, such as the bow of the ship cleaving the waves.

(This sheds some light on marriage.  "A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one."  They're one.  But they're not.  They're two parts of one.  So they're one.)

Back to the garlic.  One head.  Eight or nine cloves.  The cloves can be separated.  So they're their own thing.  But they're not.  They're joined in the one head of garlic.

Once upon a time, I was scolded for falling into a "basic meaning fallacy."  The longer I live, the more I discover that "basic meaning" really does explain connections almost all the time.  It's not a fallacy.  It's usually enlightening and fun to figure out.