"A hard road to hoe"

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Sun Jul 26 18:35:09 UTC 2009

Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> On Jul 26, 2009, at 8:24 AM, Jon Lighter reports:
>> In the Seattle area there was (and probably still is) a loathing
>> of "Skid Row" as a perversion of "Skid Road."  There may well be a
>> basis to
>> this in fact.
> the OED traces "skid row" to "skid road", but notes that the name for
> the down-and-out district of town (in any number of cities) is now
> "skid row" ("row" for 'row of houses, street' -- a usage going back at
> least to the 15th century -- might have contributed to the shift).  no
> doubt there's local history to be worked through, with reference to
> documents, etc., and you can hope that someone has done it carefully.
> insisting that "Skid Row" for a historic district of Seattle (?and
> Seattle only?) is just *wrong*, however, is just bull-headed
> Originalism.  any number of proper names have changed over time, and
> at some point there's no going back.  i suppose that people who want
> to cling to the original version of the name (if it is indeed that)
> could quaintly use this version only.  but they have no right to try
> to force others to follow them.

And, how about "pit row"/"pit road" in auto racing? For years, I thought
people were referring to "pit row" (the area on sidings to the main race
track where various bits of maintenance are performed). But, once ESPN
got rights to some auto racing (and, hence, stepped up their coverage),
their commenters/anchors seem to be rather punctilious in saying "pit
road". "Pit row" gets 91,700+ hits, including this interesting question
about when the change in terminology took place
and speculating about a semantic difference; "pit road" gets 425,000.

Alice Faber                                       faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                            tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                               fax (203) 865-8963

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

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