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Tow Head

Posted by Gary Martin on July 21, 2000

In Reply to: Meaning of "toe head" posted by Rick Lemansky on July 21, 2000

: Can someone tell me why young light haired children are called "toe heads". thanks

'Toe head' should be 'tow head'. This is a US phrase and the reference to is to 'tow', which is the light-coloured fibre of flax, hemp, or jute. 'Tow-headed' is having tousled blond hair. This dates back to the 19th century and the OED has this entry:

1850 S. Judd " Bronze-faced and tow-headed Wild Olive boys."

A 'tow-head' is also the name for a sandbar or other obstruction on a river that causes ripples.