cleft fork

Couch Tomato

Senior Member
Russian & Dutch
A little way on one side of the camp was a low-lying heap of reddish soil, which had assuredly not been there before. There was no mistaking it for anything but a newly-dug grave. As the young hunter approached it, he perceived that a stick had been planted on it, with a sheet of paper stuck in the cleft fork of it.
(A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle)

What does "cleft fork" exactly mean? "Cleft" is the past tense of "cleave" which leads me to believe that the stick was divided into two parts but I'm not sure how this would related to the fork.

Thank you in advance.
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Where the stick forked, somone had cut down into the wood to make a cleft into which the sheet of paper has been stuck. A cleft at the fork of a stick would be likely to close in on itself and thereby hold the paper in place.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    'Cleft' is also an adjective meaning 'split' or 'divided'. So it sounds like the stick has been split at one end and the paper slid into it.

    'Cleft' is also a noun, and could be used for this split.

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