Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: row to hoe.

row to hoe.

“Row to hoe” is an agricultural or gardening metaphor meaning “a challenging and perhaps arduous project” {it’s going to be a tough row to hoe}. Sometimes it’s ludicrously written as the mondegreen *”road to hoe,” especially in sportswriting — e.g.:

o “Though victories over Newcastle and Aston Villa showed Leicester how they can preserve their status, it will be a hard road [read 'row'] to hoe this winter.” Michael Henderson, “Leicester Dig in for Long, Hard Winter,” Times (London), 25 Nov. 1996, at 33.

o “Even if David Robinson comes back, it will be a hard road [read 'row'] to hoe to make it into the playoffs.” “NFL Has Finally Gone Too Far with Super Bowl Hype,” San Antonio Express-News, 2 Feb. 1997, at C5.

o “Red-hot North Carolina has a tough road [read 'row'] to hoe.” “UNC Faces Tough Road,” Star-Ledger (Newark), 19 Feb. 1997, at 54. (The error is elliptically repeated in the title.)

Language-Change Index — *”road to hoe” for “row to hoe”: Stage 2.

*Invariably inferior forms.


Quotation of the Day: “The number of words in a man’s vocabulary is as definite as the number of dollars he has in the bank; equally definite is the number of senses in which a man is able to use any given word. But there is a difference: a man cannot draw upon the public treasury when his bank balance is overdrawn, but we can all draw upon the dictionary.” Mortimer Adler, “How to Read a Dictionary” (1941), in Words, Words, Words About Dictionaries 53, 58-59 (Jack C. Gray ed., 1963).

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One Response to Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: row to hoe.

  1. Jon Nichols says:

    How are you doing Bryan? Hope you are doing well.

    Your website looks pretty good. I have a link to it on my website and today when checking that the link was valid, I checked your blog. I also still tune in every once in awhile to listen a bit to your interviews with the justices on the Supreme court. Really very good.

    Actually learned 2 things with this “roe to hoe” tip of the day. I am quite sure I have said “road to hoe” and I sure as hell did not know the definition of “mondegreen.” Had to look it up.


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