Tow vs. Toe the Line

Posted by Mike Portwood on January 04, 2002

In Reply to: Tow vs. Toe the Line posted by ESC on January 04, 2002

: : Unofficially, but in my strong opinion, it's only a sign of ignorance. "Toe the line" means to place your feet as prescribed. To tow a line would mean to drag it and doesn't call up any relevant image.

: Ignorance. But don't underestimate the power of ignorance. Some fine phrases have been created that way. Not that I can think of any right now. I do recall one phrase mangled by a friend. The phrase was "I don't know him from Adam's off ox." She said, "I don't know him from Madam Allfox." That has a nice ring to it.

: For more dicussion, search under "toe" in the archives.

After further thinking (sometimes I do that) I can see
your it's spoken form, "tow the line"
to many likely makes more "written sense" than
"toe the line", which to many would make no sense.
The fact that they both sound the same when spoken
would contribute to the confusion...and the assumption.
Thus the occurance of tow would increase over time,
and thus provide positive feedback to more and more
people that it is 'tow' and not 'toe'. In the instances
I have seen this phrase recently, it appears about as often
in one form as the other. I would wager though, that
if you looked at where the two occurances are found
one may find 'tow' in, shall I say, "colloquial" places
like web sites, general distribution brochures, ads, newspapers,etc.,
while 'toe' would be more dominant in "literary" publications
like textbooks, novels...or in forums like this ;-)
If this is the cause of the growing "dichotomy", we
may find 'toe' gradually giving way to 'tow' in popular usage.
Time will tell I guess! Isn't language wonderful!