calved
Posted: 08 October 2017 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
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How in the world did a piece of ice breaking off of an ice shelf become “calving”? Saw it used regarding a “100-square-mile chunk of ice calved from Pine Island Glacier”.

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Posted: 08 October 2017 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The term has been in use meaning (of a cow) “to produce calves” for a thousand years or so (with some changes in spelling), and it doesn’t seem much a leap from there to using that verb to refer to an iceberg producing a smaller iceberg. The OED includes this as a specific meaning of the verb calve meaning to produce calves.

The OED has a cite from 1837:
1837 G. G. Macdougall tr. W. A. Graah Narr. Exped. East Coast Greenland 104 The Greenlanders believe that..the reverberation caused by the utterance of a loud sound, is sufficient to make an iceberg calve.

I’m sure the OED people have done their homework but I mention as a matter of interest that there exists another, probably unrelated, verb “calve”, meaning “To fall in as an undermined bank or side of a cutting; “

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Posted: 09 October 2017 12:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Why assume that that sense is unrelated? I would say that the motion of a chunk of bank collapsing was very similar to that of a chunk of ice separating from a berg, especially if it collapses into water.

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Posted: 09 October 2017 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 09 October 2017 12:33 AM

Why assume that that sense is unrelated? I would say that the motion of a chunk of bank collapsing was very similar to that of a chunk of ice separating from a berg, especially if it collapses into water.

I’m not making any assumptions, just reporting the views of the OED folk.

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Posted: 09 October 2017 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Sorry, OP, I didn’t mean to imply that it was your assumption. But having now accessed the OED, I’m still puzzled by the two separate entries for the word. To my mind, their second citation given for the ‘give birth to a calf’sense, from Paradise Lost, fits with the ‘collapsing bank’ sense rather better:

The grassie Clods now Calv’d, now half appeer’d The Tawnie Lion, pawing to get free His hinder parts.

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Posted: 09 October 2017 03:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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First, note both OED entries are old, from 1888.

Calve, v.2 (the collapsing bank) is equivalent to cave in, where the dirt slides down to fill a void. And the dictionary suggests that is may simply be a Lincolnshire pronunciation of cave in, but it is possible there is a Dutch root. The OED notes in v.2 that the two senses may be the same.

But calve, v.1 is giving birth, producing another. In this sense the iceberg “gives birth” to another berg. A different metaphor is in play.

As for Paradise Lost, it definitely belongs in the “giving birth to a calf” sense. The line is from the creation of the animals, and in context reads:

In Forrest wilde, in Thicket, Brake, or Den;
Among the Trees in Pairs they rose, they walk’d:
The Cattel in the Fields and Meddowes green:
Those rare and solitarie, these in flocks
Pasturing at once, and in broad Herds upsprung.
The grassie Clods now Calv’d, now half appeer’d
The Tawnie Lion, pawing to get free
His hinder parts, then springs as broke from Bonds,

The animals are rising up from the grassy ground. First the cattle. And after the ground has calved, the lion appears.

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Posted: 09 October 2017 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I saw that it has been in use for a long time. I just had never heard it before and don’t see the similarity.

Having grown up in farm country, I worked on farms for several summers and worked on a large ranch for one summer. I have seen calves being born, and so I wonder how someone saw an iceberg breaking off and related it to a calf being born. Just my take. Thanks for the input.

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Posted: 10 October 2017 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Cows sometimes give birth standing up, with the calf falling to the ground as it leaves the birth canal.  This small piece of cow-flesh falling from a big piece of cow-flesh seems not too dissimilar from a smaller piece of ice falling from a bigger one.

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Posted: 11 October 2017 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have seen calves being born, and so I wonder how someone saw an iceberg breaking off and related it to a calf being born.

I would have though that anyone who saw an iceberg breaking off would have been more likely to relate the event to calving by a whale, rather than by a cow.

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Posted: 11 October 2017 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Except that at the time the sense was coined, nobody would ever have seen a whale giving birth. (Come to think of it, I’ve never seen that anywhere in the oeuvre of David Attenborough et al, so quite possibly it’s still something nobody has ever seen.) So there would be no visual image of the event, and it would be unlikely to give rise to a metaphor.

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Posted: 12 October 2017 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 11 October 2017 09:47 PM

Except that at the time the sense was coined, nobody would ever have seen a whale giving birth. (Come to think of it, I’ve never seen that anywhere in the oeuvre of David Attenborough et al, so quite possibly it’s still something nobody has ever seen.) So there would be no visual image of the event, and it would be unlikely to give rise to a metaphor.

While I agree that the whale metaphor is an unlikely origin for the sense of calve, there are numerous videos of whales giving birth on YouTube. So it is something that is relatively familiar in this current day in age.

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Posted: 12 October 2017 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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While I agree that the whale metaphor is an unlikely origin for the sense of calve, there are numerous videos of whales giving birth on YouTube. So it is something that is relatively familiar in this current day in age.

Didn’t you mean “day and age”, Dave?

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/day-in-age-day-and-age/

[ Edited: 12 October 2017 05:16 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 12 October 2017 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Yeah, it looked wrong when I wrote it, but I was in a hurry and didn’t check.

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Posted: 12 October 2017 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Glad to know you’re human. You made me check it to see if I was wrong.

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Posted: 16 October 2017 02:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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lionello - 11 October 2017 09:41 PM

I would have though that anyone who saw an iceberg breaking off would have been more likely to relate the event to calving by a whale, rather than by a cow.

Er, a whale being born would hardly ‘fall’ speedily into the depths of the water they were being born into as fast as a calf would into the ground from the rear parts of his mum! So you wouldn’t have the image of ‘dropping’ like a huge shelf of ice from its ‘contintent’.

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