You know we've been talking about Hillary and cleavage these last few weeks, and just this morning I was reading William Safire's "On Language" column about the word "cleavage":
Cleavage is a strong but multifaceted old noun that has gained an additional meaning. The Teutonic verb cleave means “to split asunder”; the split hoof of many animals is said to be cloven.And the devil!
The O.E.D. found cleavage to have made its appearance in 1816 about the mechanical division of crystals “sometimes called cleavage by lapidaries” (cutters of gems, nothing to do with lap-dancing). It also became a metaphor in church controversies: “When differences of religious opinion arose, they split society to its foundation,” noted an 1867 essay on Martin Luther. “The lines of cleavage penetrated everywhere.”Eggs!
We now turn to its sexual sense.... In the zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1875 “History of Creation,” the propagation of the egg cell by repeated self-division was described as “the so-called ‘cleavage of the egg,’ ” which we now know forms blastomeres and changes the single-celled zygote into a multicellular embryo, and which brings us to the recent explosion in the word’s usage....
“There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN-2,” wrote Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer for The Washington Post. “It belongs to Senator Hillary Clinton. . . . There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing,” the reporter granted, but she found it “a provocation” and “startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity.”This inspired me to do some research. Legal research, as chance would have it. Imagine! Me, a law professor, doing legal research. Has the Supreme Court ever used the word "cleavage," and, if so, has it used it in the recent, Hollywood sense of a cloven bosom?
The word was then in political play....
The last time the word got this much publicity was more than a half-century ago....
I did not realize it at the time, but the lapidarian-religious-medical meanings of cleavage had only recently been joined by a new sense of “the cleft between a woman’s breasts as revealed by a low-cut décolletage.” That O.E.D. definition has as its earliest citation a Time magazine article of Aug. 5, 1946: “Low-cut Restoration costumes . . . display too much ‘cleavage’ (Johnson Office trade term for the shadowed depression dividing an actress’s bosom into two distinct sections).” Unless a search engine belches out an earlier usage, that’s a coinage stunner: it was Hollywood that invented the latest sense of cleavage.
The answer is that the Court has used the word 31 times, beginning in 1913, and 30 of these instances have had nothing to do with human anatomy: "society's racial and ethnic cleavages," "possible cleavage between black and white voters," "the fundamental cleavage which Article I made between apportionment of Representatives among the States and the selection of Representatives within each State," "more or less definite lines of cleavage among the Justices" -- you get the point.
But there is one use of the word stands out, and it's a reference to Ann-Margret:
Nicholson has been running through an average of a dozen women a year but has never managed to meet the right one, the one with the full bosom, the good legs, the properly rounded bottom. More than that, each and every one is a threat to his malehood and peace of mind, until at last, in a bar, he finds Ann-Margret, an aging bachelor girl with striking cleavage and, quite obviously, something of a past. `Why don't we shack up?' she suggests.That's from a Rehnquist opinion, but Rehnquist did not come up with that prose. He's quoting a Hollis Alpert review of the movie "Carnal Knowledge" (and finding the movie not obscene).
Don't you wish you were there when the Justices watched that movie? Fortunately, that case, Jenkins v. Georgia, came up during the period covered in the Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong book "The Brethren":
A screen was set up, and several Justices attended the special showing. As the film progressed, there was little of the usual cackling, running commentary or leg slapping.I would like to end this post with a nice YouTube clip, but my head is reeling after looking through some of the crazy stuff a search for Ann-Margret turns up. Like this. I think I'm going to go home and act like this. Wait. This is good. And this is blurry and full of bad, but still good.
"I thought we were going to see a dirty movie," Marshall commented at the end of the movie. "The only thing obscene about this movie is that it is obscenely boring," said White. The Chief left early. He told his clerks the camera work and the lighting had been well done. Rehnquist said he liked the music.
Now, go research something.
ADDED: Damn! I put the wrong link on "going to go home and at like this." Ruined the joke. Try it now. ACTUALLY: I've removed all the those links in the end. They've all gone bad. Some YouTube policing, presumably. I hope you caught them when they were good. AND: Links restored.