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Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'

Jess A 12 Nov 04 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Mingulay 12 Nov 04 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,MCP 12 Nov 04 - 05:58 AM
Crystal 12 Nov 04 - 06:03 AM
Kevin Sheils 12 Nov 04 - 06:10 AM
Jess A 12 Nov 04 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,MCP 12 Nov 04 - 06:40 AM
Kevin Sheils 12 Nov 04 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,MCP 12 Nov 04 - 07:04 AM
Jess A 12 Nov 04 - 07:16 AM
DonMeixner 12 Nov 04 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Nov 04 - 08:42 AM
PoppaGator 12 Nov 04 - 09:49 AM
NH Dave 12 Nov 04 - 09:58 AM
Jim McLean 12 Nov 04 - 11:13 AM
Kevin Sheils 12 Nov 04 - 11:47 AM
PoppaGator 12 Nov 04 - 12:01 PM
Uncle_DaveO 12 Nov 04 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,Betsy 12 Nov 04 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Nov 04 - 01:14 PM
Bill D 12 Nov 04 - 01:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Nov 04 - 02:01 PM
Alexis 12 Nov 04 - 02:18 PM
BB 12 Nov 04 - 03:00 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 12 Nov 04 - 03:54 PM
Jim McLean 12 Nov 04 - 06:06 PM
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Subject: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Jess A
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 05:32 AM

Hiya, I was involved in a discussion a while back about the correct way to pronounce the word 'tow' and came across this thread today which made me think about it again. I'm talking about tow as in the material used to make fibre, similar to hemp or flax.

My initial instinct was to pronounce it to rhyme with 'toe' (i.e. on the end of your foot) but I have been told that it should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cow'. I'm in the UK if that makes any difference...

cheers,
Jess


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,Mingulay
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 05:56 AM

Tow   -   rhymes with cow. I'm in the UK too, or shold that be toe?


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 05:58 AM

OED gives this as toe (in fact all meanings in shorter OED given with this).

Mick


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Crystal
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:03 AM

It depends what the context is.
"A tow headed gal on a pinto" rhymes with cow
"Hal an tow, jolly rumbello" rhymes with toe
I expects that this is just me though.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:10 AM

Ah but the context was mentioned in the original post. So I guess the rhyme with cow is the correct one.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Jess A
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:20 AM

Thanks everybody - that fits with what I've been told - I'll stick with rhyming with cow.
I'd seen what the OED said too Mick, which was kind of why I was doubting what I'd been told in the first place (plus various online phonetic dictionaries although most that I could find were not very comprehensive and many did not even contain that definition of 'tow').

Cheers
Jess


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:40 AM

Jess & Kevin - what's the source for rhyming it with cow, since that seems to be completely the opposite of OED (in this and every other context)? (The only place I've heard that rhyme is when used in things like: tow-row-row, all rhyming with cow).

Mick


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:47 AM

Mick

I've heard the expression "A tow headed girl" used with the the pronunciation as in cow, so my source is experience rather than academic.

As are most things in my life, as you well know!


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 07:04 AM

Ah, Kevin, I thought your life rhymed with Hubble.

I did wonder if it was only foreigners who pronounced it to rhyme with cow, but Websters give toe as well. Perhaps nobody liked the sound of a "toe-headed girl" (there is also the related word taw, pronounded like saw). Are there any other examples with the cow pronounciation?

Mick


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Jess A
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 07:16 AM

my source for rhyming it with cow was simply somebody else telling me 'that's how you pronounce it'. No idea where he got this from though, although I shall ask him!


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: DonMeixner
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 08:06 AM

The tow in tow headed indicates a color. That being the color of the stalks of fiber left in the process of making linen. These stalks are called tow and that very white blond color is the color of the stalks.

I've never heard of Tow being pronounced and rhymed with cow before. But then here in the US we have some very odd pronounciations.

Cough sound as "Koff" is the most common but but it is never sounded as "Ko". Poughkeepsie is sound as Po-kipsie, never Poff-Kipsie. Must a Dutch thing or perhaps American Indian.

Don


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 08:42 AM

My Webster's New International Dictionary (1956) says it has a long o as in "old" Therefore it sounds just like "toe."

Presumably they went out and asked the people who work with the stuff.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: PoppaGator
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 09:49 AM

I've always heard the "tow" in "tow-headed" pronounced "toe." (In various areas of the US -- I've lived in New Jersey, Indiana, northern California, and New Orleans.)

I never knew that "tow" was a vegetable fiber, as explained above; just knew it was *something* whitish-yellow, like very pale blond hair.

All three of my kids were towheads up til about age three, when their hair started to darken. Now they all have brown hair; I have the lightest-colored hair in the family now (gray).


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: NH Dave
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 09:58 AM

In many parts of the US where canals were used to move goods, the canal boats were pulled/towed by horses traveling along a tow (toe) path. The same pronunciation is used when the farmer or now more usually an expensive recovery vehicle pulls or tows your car out of the predicament into the ditch or snowbank you have stuck it.

Don't they have tow paths in the Norfolk Broads, or were the canal boats propelled by push poles and bargemen constantly walking the length of the barge?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Jim McLean
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 11:13 AM

In Scotland tow is pronounced as in cow when referring to a piece of strong string or rope. There's a proverb 'lat the tow gang wi the bucket' meaning to give up or cut one's losses.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 11:47 AM

And I'd guess Jim that the tow in the scottish rope comes, or at least originally came, from the vegetable fibre mentioned earlier. Although as with many words it probably now refers to any strong string.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: PoppaGator
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 12:01 PM

In the US, when "tow" is used as a verb (to pull), the pronunciation is invariably "toe."

I had not been aware of the word's usage as a noun meaning the rope used for towing -- the only usage of "tow" as a noun I've encountered is probably incorrect or colloquial, in reference to the thing being pulled (disabled vehicle, etc.)


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 12:18 PM

Given the Scottish pronunciation referred to above, to rhyme with the English pronunciation of cow, it seems to me we have what I'll call language interpenetration. I'd betcha those who rhyme it with the English word cow are following a line back into the Scottish pronunciation.

I've checked my two unabridged dictionaries, and both would rhyme it with toe, and neither gives the cow rhyme even as an alternative.

In addition, I've never (in 74 years) heard "tow", in any sense, rhymed with cow. This is, of course, in the US.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,Betsy
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 12:20 PM

Both are right - Tow rope as in "toe" and
Old songs - definitely most seem to rhyme with cow-sounding words


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 01:14 PM

Yeah, but cow might have been pronounced coo or kye. Now what!?


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 01:44 PM

now what? Why, standardization, of course! According to MY opinion...*grin*


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 02:01 PM

Pronounced toe in the old "Kemo Kimo" to rhyme with go (see link). Tow, in the sense of uncleansed wool or flax goes back to the 14th century. Applied to hemp in the 16th c. or earlier. See OED. Origin uncertain, perhaps Norman, perhaps from towcraft, an Old English word for spinning or weaving (OED). Sometimes 'too, tou, in Scottish.

There is another word, tow, Scottish and Low German, meaning rope. Fifteenth c. or earlier. Touw or various spellings. Not related to the tow, above. Pronounced toe or too, incorrectly rhymed sometimes with cow.
The folk pronunciation rhyming with cow is practically unknown in US-Canada (I've never heard it, like Dave, above), but seems to be used in UK, by posts here.

Now why don't we pronounce toward like coward?

Tow-headed gal on a pinto- rhymed with cow? Ugh! "Take that back, stranger, or you're headed for Boot Hill."


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Alexis
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 02:18 PM

As a child in Helston, (home of the Flora Dance and (to me ) the Hal an Tow), I was taught that it rhymed with cow. But always wondered why anyone north of Plymouth sang Hal an toe.


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: BB
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 03:00 PM

Thank you for that, Alexis - that's certainly something I never knew! Re the original query, I had always thought it was 'tow' as in 'cow', and, when I enquired of him, so did my partner.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 03:54 PM

On the rivers of the U.S.A., a float of barges with the towboat is called a TOW---and is pronounced like the digits on a human foot---a "toe". In the early days of the Mississippi River, the towboat did TOW (pull) the barges. That proved not to be very efficient. Now, the towboats "PUSH" the barges along.-------- But they are still called towboats. The old nomenclature dies hard. I have heard 'em called pushboats -- especially in the song, "Workin' On A Pushboat".

Once in a while there will be a pilot boat or device at the front of a tow to help with maneuvering and keeping the entire unwieldy mass within the channel (between the proper buoys) and off the sandbars---- but usually one powerful diesel towboat can control the entire floatilla.

Once I saw 15 barges filled with Tic Tac candy. (That was on the upper Miss. River near lock 13 just North of Clinton, Iowa.) It is quite rare though that you will encounter an actual Tic Tac Tow ;-)

Art


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Subject: RE: Query: pronunciation of 'Tow'
From: Jim McLean
Date: 12 Nov 04 - 06:06 PM

Here's an old joke. A car breaks down and when another stops to help. 'Are you a mechanic?' asks the driver in distress. 'No, I'm a chiropodist'. 'Then can you give me a tow?'
Sorry!!

The pronunciation of tow in Scotland concerning rope etc (nothing to do with the joke above), is as Kevin Shiels says, the same as for the hemp fibre and ryhmes with cow. See The Concise Scots Dictionary, Mairi Robertson, Aberdeen University Press.


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