If you’re looking forward to “diving in,” this is different from looking forward to “delving in.” One involves shovels and/or deep exploration. One involves an enthusiastic move forward and maybe even aquatic life.
- “To dive in” means not only to plunge head-first into water, but also to move forward into a project or activity. There are other meanings of “to dive,” of course, but these are the two I want to focus on for the moment.
- “To delve in” means to dig in, whether with a spade into dirt (the original version of the word in 9th century Old English) or whether more abstractly (a more recent meaning), with an inquisitive mind, analyzing something or searching for further information.
If you’re jumping enthusiastically into a work project, maybe you’re diving in. If you’re starting some research or some deeper examination or analysis of some kind, you’re more likely delving in.
If you’re giddy about your first scuba lesson, maybe you’re ready to dive in on multiple levels. There are schools and shoals of fish to see, after all! Of course, if you’re working on your scuba certification, perhaps you’re delving into the subject matter of buoyancy control and underwater communication signs.
Underwater adventures aside, my favorite use of “delve” that sometimes confuses people is in a nursery rhyme that’s probably familiar to you.
“One, two, buckle my shoe” (The lack of shoe buckles aside, we’re doing well so far.)
“Three, four, close the door” (Or is it “knock at the door”? “Shut the door”? Beside the point, really.)
“Five, six, pick up sticks” (I think we can all agree on that one.)
But when you get all the way past ten, there’s, “Eleven, twelve, dig and delve.”
Here’s the problem, you might say. (Though is it really a problem?)
How is “digging” different from “delving”? According to Merriam Webster, in an earlier era, “digging” sometimes referred to working with a specific set of tools that were different from the shovel that “delving” requires. So the nursery rhyme does actually work, whether you knew that verse or not.
Feel free to use it as a countdown before diving into the ocean if you’d like, of course.
Any other “digging,” “diving,” “delving” questions? You know I’ve got to say it: If you’re ready to delve into more English language specifics, there’s always Get a Grip on Your Grammar.
Happy writing, researching, and swimming, everyone!
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