Barrow ditch.

Bonnie Osborn Briggs BBriggs at LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU
Mon Oct 9 18:33:42 UTC 2000

It might be that someone is trying to link it to the term barrow pit
that is common in the South.

Bonnie Briggs
The University of Memphis

> Mark Odegard wrote:
> I have recently become aware of the term 'barrow ditch'. It seems to
> be an American regionalism, confined mostly to the South; I'm told
> that, in the South, it's pronounced 'bar-ditch'. It refers to the
> ditch alongside a highway. A web search conclusively demonstrates that
> this is in active usage.
> Oddly, 'barrow ditch' seems undocumented by the dictionaries. I've
> compared notes with a few others, and about the only work we have not
> consulted is DARE.
> The interesting thing, of course, is the usage of 'barrow'. The older
> sense of barrow is that of a mound of earth, an artificial hill,
> particularly over a grave: tumulus, kurgan. This sense is found mainly
> in archaeological literature. The other sense is that found in
> 'wheelbarrow', where it seems the device for transporting a barrow, a
> mound (of something) has, through metonymy, become the name of the
> device.
> Is 'barrow' being used to describe an elevated roadbed? All good
> roads, of course, are at least slightly elevated from the surrounding
> terrain, in order to ensure good drainage. One thinks of a barrow as
> being a rounded mound, but something dike-like is not a difficult
> semantic extension.  I wonder if civil engineers, the kind that design
> roads, use 'barrow' in this sense.  I suspect this is an archaism.
> Comments?
> Mark Odegard.

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