"A hard road to hoe"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Jul 26 18:07:11 UTC 2009

On Jul 25, 2009, at 8:21 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> ... what surprised me is that Google shows that this a
> favorite *pet peeve* of a surprising number of "ordinary," so to
> speak, people. I took only a casual glance at the first few hits, but
> it seemed as though there are almost as many instances of people
> bitching about the fact that there are people who use this as there
> are instances of people who use this.

astonishing.  but as the ecdb entry --


makes clear, the "road" version makes a lot of sense, especially for
people for whom the image of hoeing rows is no longer vivid.  what i'm
not clear about is the relative frequencies of the "row" and "road"
variants these days.  it's entirely possible that the frequencies are
roughly comparable, and that both variants are now acceptable.  such
things happen.

against this is the belief in One Right Way (which i've posted about
here before), the insistence (in this case) that only one variant can
be acceptable -- and if you think the history is known, Originalism
picks the historically earlier form as the correct one.

by the way, one commenter on the ecdb entry unearthed a reference to
an 1840 cite with "road" and tentatively suggested that it might have
been the original.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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