from cleavage to ...

AlexanderIII

Senior Member
Russian
Dear all, this is from 'GUT SYMMETRIES' by Jeanette Winterson. Two women are competing for some Jove. One of them is 20 years younger than another. They are going to meet.

She would be greying, she would be lined, I had dressed as a warrior: black from cleavage to insoles, hair down, fat hoops of of gold in my ears, war-paint make-up.

I wonder what cleavage the narrator means.
1) It would be only logical to mean from hair parting (from top to bottom, from head to foot). But I'm afraid cleavage cannot be used instead of hair parting.
2) Down from beneath the décolleté. Probably the narrator wears some black low-neck young people's style garment without sleeves, hence from in to insoles.

I think 2) is correct. Would you agree?
 
  • AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    From the WR dictionary:

    cleav•age/ˈklivɪdʒ/n.
    1. [uncountable]the area between a woman's breasts, esp. when revealed by a low-cut neckline.
    Of course, Florentia52, I've seen this. And about a fold between buttocks too. My question: can cleavage be used instead of hair parting. My guess -- no. Please, confirm. (You see, being in the shoes of the narrator I would write from head to foot, from the hair parting to soles.)
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    "From head to toe" is the usual expression. However, I think the writer came up with "from cleavage to insoles" simply as a way to emphasize that the narrator wants to look sexy. Winterson does this by using this unusual phrase that allows the narrator to make a passing reference to her cleavage.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You see, JustKate, I am expecting a trap for a translator everywhere. This makes me look for some other meaning. And you may say what you want but the description "from cleavage to insoles" looks a bit defective. As everybody knows (no kidding) the cleavage consists of two parts: exposed and unexposed. To be precise the narrator should say "from the exposed part of cleavage to insoles".
    But I see your point.
    Thank you very much, Florentia52 and JustKate !
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    To give you a direct answer to your question: no, we would not use "cleavage" to refer to a part in the hair. And I've never heard it used to refer to buttocks. As far as I know, it refers strictly to breasts.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    You see, JustKate, I am expecting a trap for a translator everywhere. This makes me look for some other meaning. And you may say what you want but the description "from cleavage to insoles" looks a bit defective. As everybody knows (no kidding) the cleavage consists of two parts: exposed and unexposed. To be precise the narrator should say "from the exposed part of cleavage to insoles".
    But I see your point.
    Thank you very much, Florentia52 and JustKate !
    Well, no. As the definition given by Florentia says, cleavage refers to the upper part of the breasts as made visible by low-cut clothing, rather than literally to the entire space between the breasts. And the word for the hairline as you said yourself is 'parting', never 'cleavage': cleavage in modern usage refers strictly and only to a woman's breasts. 'Black from cleavage to insoles' is a very unusual use of those words, but it's not 'defective'.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Well, no. As the definition given by Florentia says, cleavage refers to the upper part of the breasts as made visible by low-cut clothing, rather than literally to the entire space between the breasts. And the word for the hairline as you said yourself is 'parting', never 'cleavage': cleavage in modern usage refers strictly and only to a woman's breasts. 'Black from cleavage to insoles' is a very unusual use of those words, but it's not 'defective'.
    No, it certainly isn't. I'd say it's clever and quite vivid.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    And I've never heard it used to refer to buttocks. As far as I know, it refers strictly to breasts.
    One of the WF theads 'cleavage' discusses among others this point.

    I am completely satisfied. Thanks again Florentia52 and JustKate !
    Thank you Joanvillafane and Copperknickers !
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    As everybody knows (no kidding) the cleavage consists of two parts: exposed and unexposed.
    No. Re-read the definition in the post above. It's the whole thing but we most often (especially) use this term when the middle part of the whole is exposed.
    "Butt cleavage" requires context. "Cleavage" with no other context is always assumed to be "chest cleavage."
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    As everybody knows (no kidding) the cleavage consists of two parts: exposed and unexposed.
    There is cleavage, and that's a fact, whether you see it or not, if the woman is wearing a bra that compresses her breasts together. We use 'cleavage' about what we can see. In my opinion these days we see far too much too often.

    Why would we talk about cleavage we can't see? Only if you are unfortunate enough to get toast crumbs down there. If you can't see the cleavage, these days, the invisible cleavage creates more of a mono-bosom effect (like mono-brows, think Frieda Kahlo), rather than the twin peaks effect of the last half of the 20th century.

    Some stars of stage and screen wear evening gowns with very deep necklines, even down to their navels, deep 'decolletes'. This is a French word pronounced 'day 'coll tay'. I have forgotten how to do the accents. Some of us call the exposed chest area above the breasts the 'decollete' and the word is used also as an adjective for a low-cut neckline
    Bras of course are not worn for these extreme decolletes and thus these women do not display cleavage.
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Why would we talk about cleavage we can't see? Only if you are unfortunate enough to get toast crumbs down there.
    I'm afraid I know women who use it for storage - money, phones, facial tissues, etc.
    Some stars of stage and screen wear evening gowns with very deep necklines, even down to their navels, deep 'decolletes'.
    In American English, I think the term "decolletage" is more common. (Decollete is new to me, but perhaps I wasn't paying attention and assumed people saying that were saying the other.)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm afraid I know women who use it for storage - money, phones, facial tissues, etc.
    Yes, a cleavage comes in handy. I often stick banknotes and the odd paper hankie in mine. But I don't talk about it, except on public forums.:D
    What I'm saying is when we mention cleavage we almost always mean visible cleft.
    I need to know about the 'insoles' and how that goes with cleavage, an insole being invisible until the shoe is off.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I need to know about the 'insoles' and how that goes with cleavage, an insole being invisible until the shoe is off.
    I insist that your cleavage and your insoles are there regardless of your clothing. Your banknotes don't fall on the floor when button more buttons on your blouse.
     
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