Robin Hood was Clad in Green

By Maeve Maddox

The morning paper for me is always full of surprises that have nothing to do with the news.

A recent eye-popper:

Bill White, the mayor of Houston, cut a ribbon ahead of the public opening of the Beer Can House, a folk art monument that got its start when the late John Milkovisch began a 20-year task of cladding his house and workshop with thousands of maintenance-free flattened beer cans.

We’ve all heard the word “clad.”

Old-fashioned novelists might tell us that the hero is “clad in doublet and hose,” that is, he was dressed in a close-fitting upper-body garment and long leg coverings.

Ships can be said to be iron-clad: a timber under-structure has been covered with iron. The adjective ironclad can be used as a noun:

The first battles between ironclads occurred during the U.S. Civil War.

Figuratively we can speak of “an iron-clad clause” in a contract: the wording is so perfect, no one can wriggle out of it on a technicality.

So where does the word “clad” come from?

Clad is the old past form of the verb to clothe:
Today I clothe my child in silk.
Yesterday I clad my child in silk.
I have clad my child in silk.
I am clothing my child in silk.

Mr. Milkovisch was clothing his house with beer cans. He was covering his house with beer cans. To say that he was “cladding” his house with beer cans is to create a new verb, the forms of which would be:

infinitive: to clad
simple past: clad
past participle: have clad
present participle: cladding.

Such a creation is not without precedent. It is a kind of back formation, like taking the singular noun pease and creating a new singular, pea, which then has the plural peas.

What do you want to bet that “clad” as a present tense verb catches on?

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5 Responses to “Robin Hood was Clad in Green”

  • Frank

    Umm, it already has caught on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladding

  • Maeve

    Frank,
    Hmmm,
    as behind the times as I was on Madonna!

  • Tania

    good one, thx! and “clad” as present tense verb is definitely current on this curve of the globe (SA).

  • Michel

    http://www.google.com/search?q=cladding+etymology

    I am sure I have heard it on Grand Design on Discovery too

  • Stephen Thorn

    I first encountered “cladding” in a Stephen King short story, in which a character refers to reinforcing the sides of a portable lavatory in steel to prevent vandals from damaging it. This was known as cladding the appliance. It struck me as an elegant-sounding term and I’ve been keeping an eye out for when I might use it in my own writing.

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