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TOWHEAD

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TOWHEAD

Postby Slava » Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:40 am

The Good Word for 8/4/13:
Dr. Goodword wrote:• towhead •

Pronunciation: tow-hed • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A light-haired person, a person with blond or light tan hair. 2. An unkempt, tousled head of hair or someone possessed of one. 3. A sandbar or small island in a river.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with an adjective, towheaded, which is used as often as the noun. The word tow is most generally associated with the color tow, for we find it in several other compounds reflecting that meaning, such as tow-haired and tow-colored.

In Play: Towheads are more often children whose hair color is likely to darken as they age: "Hedda Hair was a towhead as a child and today she maintains that same light color chemically." Because of the similarity of its pronunciation with that of tousle, no doubt, today it has assumed the meaning of that word: "That little towhead looks as though his hair has never known the benefits of comb or brush." In this case, the hair may be of any color.

Word History: The word tow comes from old methods of spinning. It is related to tousle "rough up (hair)" and tease in the sense of roughing up hair. In Old English, the ancestor of tease (tæsan) meant "to pull apart", and was used in reference to pulling apart wool and flax fibers before spinning. In fact, the verb to tow meant "to comb or card flax" in the 17th century. This makes the noun a cousin of Old Norse tó "raw wool or flax". Apparently it also referred to the hemp fibers, for we see it in tow-sack, tow-bag, and tow-string. (Now let's thank former tow-head Roger A. Meyer for suggesting today's common but mysterious Good Word.)
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:30 pm

In one of the many,
and there are quite a few, movie versions of "Oliver Twist",
the workhouse boys are separating tow, in the sense that
Doc mentions, and one particularly distressed boy starts
to eat it, whereupon, Oliver tells him he'll be beaten if he does.
In the same movie it is mentioned later that the boys are so
hungry that they are often found doing this.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby MTC » Sun Aug 04, 2013 3:18 pm

Colorful if grim connection to Oliver Twist, Luke. Doc notes
"the verb to tow meant 'to comb or card flax' in the 17th century."
In the discussion on carminative, DavidLJ "thought that the French root was clear enough: the sound of carding cotton or flax is certainly fart-like." If this is correct, the process of carding flax links two apparently dissimilar words, tow and carminative. According to Wikipedia, "The word ("card") is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool." Carding, including pictures, is discussed here: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carding) Now we also see what may be the origin of "tease," "teasels." But that's another story for another day.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:31 pm

I scanned "Oliver Twist". See:
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/730/pg730.txt

I didn't find tow. Perhaps Dickens used a different word or the moviemakers changed the story line.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:17 pm

Dickens not using 'tow' is not surprising. In fact I don't
know if the movies use it either, but the boys sitting on
benches doing it is the image portrayed, and this one
kid is starving and tries to eat it when Oliver discourages
him and he is caught and beaten.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby MTC » Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:18 am

He may not use "tow," Luke, but as the search feature on his collected works reveals, he uses "flaxen-haired" or related expressions a number of times. It is also not surprising that the movie scene you describe is not in the novel. Script writers have license.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:41 am

I know the scene is not in the book, nor in other Oliver
movies, but I think the fact that the boys are working
flax is, yes?
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby Slava » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:05 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:I know the scene is not in the book, nor in other Oliver movies, but I think the fact that the boys are working flax is, yes?

Stick to it, Luke. I don't know why anyone is taking you to task over a movie. We know there's not much truth to them, don't we?

As to the word tow, I just found out there's an adjective, towy. Here's one definition: the fibres of hemp, flax, jute, etc, in the scutched state (dictionary.com). Don't you just love definitions that make you look up more words? :D

Scutch means to dress hemp, flax, etc. by pounding, to separate the fibers for carding.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby MTC » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:25 pm

Slava wrote:Scutch means to dress hemp, flax, etc. by pounding, to separate the fibers for carding.


But, despite appearances, no relation to "escutcheon."

escutcheon (n.)
late 15c., from Old North French escuchon, variant of Old French escusson, from Vulgar Latin *scutionem, from Latin scutum "shield" (see hide (n.1)).

Etymonline.com
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby gailr » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:04 pm

Sometimes a shield is an offensive weapon - used for punches. Enough punches might reduce the opponent to separated fibers through pounding...
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:19 pm

Re: The Oliver Twist movies.

I'm not taking Luke to task over movies. I am an engineer and I like to check things out. I have seen more than one Oliver Twist movie as well as many movies of Dickens other books. Some of them are very good. Some not so much. None approach the book for quality.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:04 pm

gailr wrote:Sometimes a shield is an offensive weapon - used for punches. Enough punches might reduce the opponent to separated fibers through pounding...


I tried google images to find one, some are pictured, but I don't
know how to get it here. Some shields were weapons not just
for punching, but they had a corner hook on the top: used for
tearing necks, and wrenching off heads.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby MTC » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:14 am

"... and wrenching off heads." "Towheads?"

My, bloodthirsty, aren't we?
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:33 pm

Yeah. I love a good medieval movie with lots of blood and
gore. "Game of Thrones" keeps me happy in that regard.
Better often than cars exploding in every cop show these days.
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Re: TOWHEAD

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:27 pm

About shields - The Romans had hooks on the sides of their shields to connect with the soldiers next to them forming an almost unbreakable phalanx.
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