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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Towing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0894  Monday, 24 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 02:04:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0882 Re: Towing

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 13:06:22 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0882 Re: Towing


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 02:04:03 -0400
Subject: 11.0882 Re: Towing
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0882 Re: Towing

>Not to question Terence too much, but:
>"Towing the line" is an Americanism, oft used in the 19th century.

Ahem.  Far be it from me to upstage a fellow scholar, especially in an
apparently misplaced piece of sarcasm, but this joke bears my de facto
copyright as a posting dated last Monday with the subject "whose line is
it?"  I will give all those who followed me the benefit of a doubt I
rarely give my students that the plagiarism was inadvertent.

Although the cliche may be used in either sense, its use here seemed to
connote the slavish adherence to a kind of party line imposed by a
hegemonic authority, rather than simply attention to one's job, or even
strenuous labor (which strikes me as, by far, the more significant
aspect of a bargeman's duties), and so, clearly fell into what is, I
think, its more common usage (frankly, I always thought it was from boot
camp).

Clifford Stetner

>I think nowadays the two have merged into one grand cliche, and as an
>editor I would accept either version (assuming a cliche were called for).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 13:06:22 -0400
Subject: 11.0882 Re: Towing
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0882 Re: Towing

Nice try, Ron, but it sounds like fantasy etymology. People towed boats,
not lines, even on the Erie Canal. Toeing the line does have to do with
staying on the straight and narrow path, and maybe some of the confusion
came through this image, but without better evidence I think "towing the
line" was a mistake for "toeing the line" in the 19th century as it is
today.  Obviously it could have been a very widespread mistake. "Toeing"
was harder to spell than "towing" even then.

David
 

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