Noah Webster at 250

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Oct 22 04:56:44 UTC 2008

Wilson Gray wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Noah Webster at 250
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dennis Baron writes:
> "...plow, not plough ..."
> Back in the 'Forties, there was a soap-operatic, cartoon-serial
> entitled _The Gumps_. One day, the Gumps were expecting as dinner
> guest an English gentleman named "Plough." Confusion reigned as to how
> this name might be pronounced, so that introductions would not pose an
> embarrassing problem. Various solutions were proposed. I went with
> "Pluff," myself. It seemed obvious.
> When Mr. Plough arrived and was forced to explain to his American
> hosts that his name was pronounced "Plow," exactly as spelled,
> millions of Americans, including your humble correspondent, were taken
> completely by surprise. My WAG is that not ten percent of the strip's
> readers had any idea as to what what the point of this was. I didn't
> even believe that "Plough" could be pronounced "Plow." Hence, I had
> not the slightest idea WTF the strip's point was, until perhaps a
> dekkid later.

Here ...

... is a science-fiction author named "Clough", whose books I read years
ago. (Perhaps like some kindred spirits subscribing to this list?) Back
when, I would have had no idea how to pronounce the surname. Now, thanks
to the Internet, I am apprised of the 'correct' pronunciation, "cluff"
(hope it's not another Internet lie). Some others with the same name
orthographically are called "clow", I think.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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