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June 13, 2012

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I've been waiting 30 years for a reason to recall this movie scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrBOEekIPqY

Your mention of "plow" made me think of the English spelling "plough", which in turn reminded me of "sough" and the fact that I have never been sure how to pronounce it. Maybe like the porcine "sow"? or the seeding "sow"? or like "rough"?

Each of the first three on-line dictionaries that I looked at gave a different one of these three answers.

@Empty: I have no idea, but I love this passage from Erasmus Darwin's "The Temple of Nature" (1803), which I found at Wordnik.com:

“The word sough, now pronounced suff, was formerly called sow; whence the iron fused and received into a sough acquired the name of sowmetal; and that received into less soughs from the former one obtained the name of pigs of iron or of lead; from the pun on the word sough, into sow and pigs.”

Well, I always wondered ... No, I didn't, but I could have wondered why they call it pig iron.

But does this "sough" (which I've never heard of), meaning a certain kind of lump of iron, have any relation to the verb "sough" that I was referring to?

@Empty: According to OED, they're all pronounced "suff" except, possibly, for the obsolete "sough" meaning "ploughshare." The "sough" meaning "a rushing or murmuring sound" is related to "sigh." So is the associated verb. The "sough" meaning "ditch" is "of unknown origin."

I didn't know that a sough could be a ditch. A slough can also be a drainage ditch, but (at least in my old paper OED) the words don't look related.

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