• slough •Pronunciation: slu (US), slaw (UK) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A swamp, marsh, or tidal flat; a shallow bog or mire, a backwater at a river inlet. 2. An emotional mire, a deep depression, despair, or moral degeneration.
Notes: Do not confuse this noun with the verb slough "to shed skin" pronounced [slêf]. The final GH was originally pronounced like German or Scottish CH, like a K, but without completely stopping the flow of air in the back of the throat. This sound then either shifted to [f] (usually after U, as in laugh) or disappeared altogether, leaving the letters GH silent, as they are in today's Good Word.
In Play: Sloughs are real and emotional mires: "When Miriam Webster got her boots mired in a slough by the creek, she arrived in such a dismal slough that she didn't make the second round of the spelling bee." It is a good word to use when morale is low, but you don't want to mention it in words others might comprehend but misunderstand: "Come on, guys! We have to pull ourselves out of this slough and put some enthusiasm into marketing the company's new solar powered flashlight."
Word History: This Good Word comes from a Proto-Indo-European root with a Fickle S, an initial S we find in some languages but not in others. It is related to Russian luzha "mud puddle" and lug "meadow" which, as you can see, lost the initial S. The Germanic languages, however, kept the S. Middle English also had a word slonk "hollow depression in the ground", which may be related. If so, it suggests that the original root may have had a Fickle N, too.