Sign in to follow this  

The old English verb "clepen"

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I am relating this to birth certificates, which are usually issued under a department of health somewhere.

Wiktionary gives a strange definition: to call out or cry.

The word does mean "to call" but only in the sense of naming someone or calling someone out by name.

Two different modern forms of that verb appear in the English language: to clip and to cleave.

"To clip" has a double meaning: either to cut apart (as with scissors) or to attach together (as with a paperclip.) This verb is transitive said of a human agent working with some type of material or other. Conjugated regularly.

"To cleave" is another form of the same verb, with the same double meaning: either to stick together or to separate. It is intransitive, and said of the object or material itself. Either "cleft" or "cloven" in the past participle, (but always with "be" rather than "have" in the perfect tenses, like some French verbs e^tre vs. avoir.) "Cleft" or "clove" in the simple past.

"Clepen" was used especially in the passive voice in the past participle form "yclept" to refer to a person's real given name, or the name by which that person was called at birth. It must refer to some sort of cutting, but the Germanic tribes abhorred the Jewish practice of circumcision, so it could not possibly have been that sort of cutting.

It seems rather more likely to refer to the custom of keeping a lock of hair in a baby book, but probably more officially, like a birth certificate. (Involving both of the two meanings, to cut and to attach.) The ancient druids must have had a way to trace that baby hair to uniquely identify an adult despite the passage of time and without anything like a modern DNA test.

One might, perhaps "clip" a horse's hooves, to put horseshoes on, for example, but a horse's hoof cannot be said to be "cloven," because it does not "cleave" naturally or in and of itself, like a cow's hoof to say nothing of a vertical vs horizontal separation.

The word "cleavage" in vulgar reference to a woman's breasts must also relate to the same idea of childbirth and "naming" a baby.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Brits did not fool around with their horses, in those days, either. Iron was more precious than gold, and horses had iron horseshoes.

Think about what they had to do to accomplish this. They had to haul heavy loads of iron ore into the smelter, stoke the furnace continuously with large quantities of coal, and pump the bellows furiously to force air into it, until the flames reached a thunderous roar and a searing, blistering, blinding white heat, hot enough to smelt iron. The horses did most of the heavy labor, of course, but they were quite willing to help because they knew that they would be getting new shoes when they could smell and hear the smelter in operation, even though they could scarcely contain their excitement and fear.

Long before Bessemer and the German industrialists ever showed up on the scene.

I would not think horses were "always" shod in those days. It was simply too expensive and too much a luxury, unless a horse needed special support for a split or cracked hoof or was being ridden by a knight into battle, or similar situations.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.