I always liked the word "cleave." It's what I used to call a contronym. Now, I find that it is referred to as an auto-antonym (sometimes spelled autantonym), or contranym. Either way, it's a word with a homograph (a word of the same spelling) that is also an antonym (a word with the opposite meaning). Basically, it's a word with multiple meanings, one of which is defined as the reverse of one of its other meanings.

Not to get too buried in language here, but true homographs are distinct words with different etymology (origins) which happen to have the same form. "Cleave" meaning "to separate" is from the Old English clēofen, while cleave meaning the opposite "to adhere" is from Old English cleofian, which was pronounced differently.

And all that is just a lead-in to a new book called Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell. She's the blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got her own book and movie deal out of it.

After that success, her marriage is threatened by an insane love affair, and she decides to leave town and do what so many others have done in that situation - learn to be a butcher.

She finds a butcher shop (Fleischer’s) and learns how to break down a side of beef and "French" a rack of ribs (something Ms. Childs probably never did).

Then, banked by her previous success (or her publisher), she travels to find fellow butchers from South America to Europe to Africa.

What are the connections between mastering the art of hacking at meat and mastering your heart?

The book's subtitle is "A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession." And cleave is a contronym, so...

It has gotten some harsh reviews harsh reviews and puzzled some readers - which, of course, makes me want to check out the book.

Her What Could Happen blog is at and her official site is at

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