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As I was writing a limerick I wanted to use the saying "road to hoe". The line was going to be, "ponder my next road to hoe" meaning thinking about the place I wanted to go next on my travels. The more I looked at this, the more I thought "what a stupid saying!" It doesn't make any sense and it must be wrong. Well I googled it and both "road to hoe" and "row to how" had many hits (or is it ghits?). Have you heard of this expression? How do you say it? It seems to often be used as meaing something is very difficult i.e. a tough road/row to hoe.

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TrossL, I think it's actually "row to hoe," meaning what is the next part of the field you are going to cultivate.

A tough row to hoe would be one full of rocks and roots, literally, but a tough problem to face, figuratively.

I found "Tough row to hoe" listed in an online idiom dictionary.

Wordmatic
 
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Picking cotton? No one wants a tough row to hoe.
 
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Actually that was a damn typo. I know it is either "road to hoe" or "row to hoe" but once I named the topic there was no way to go back and fix it!!! aargh!

Never mind... just figured it out and fixed it. But as I said, I googled both these terms and found that congressman and senators and important people have actually used "road to hoe" even though that is wrong.
 
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Yes, that's the problem with Google. I used to think if I googled a saying and found it, I had it right. However, I should have realized that others had it wrong, too.

I remember my parents saying "you've got a tough row to hoe."
 
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I first heard the phrase "hard row to hoe" in an old gospel/bluegrass song. I just now tried to find the lyrics and couldn't locate the song I heard. I suspect it was probably the Ricky Skaggs song, but he's declined to allow the lyrics to be posted on any of the websites I've found. I was surprised by how many songs used the phrase in lyrics.


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First usage I could find was all the way back in 1835 (Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 24, 1835), and was clearly agricultural. It's in a little ditty titled Hoe Out Your Row; A Farmer's Song, with this first verse:
    You've a hard row to hoe, noble knight of the sod,
    But to toil in the earth is the mandate of God;
    And if by the sweat of your brow you must win
    Your bread, it is time, it is time to begin;
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Then go to, go,
    If your bread by the sweat of your brow you must win,
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hoe out your row.
Every verse ends with the refrain, Hoe out your row.

Edit: OED's quote of Davey Crockett, in the same year, makes it clear the phrase is older: "I never opposed Andrew Jackson for the sake of popularity. I knew it was a hard row to hoe."

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Not trying to belittle anyone by any means but if you take the phase and think about it a little ......you can use the garden tool called a hoe to hoe a row meaning to dig a row or furrow or you could also use it to clean debris, like rocks or twigs and sticks and leaves out of a row. I suppose you MIGHT be able to do some sort of maintenance on a DIRT road with a hoe although I am not sure how much you could realistically do, but there is little or nothing you could do on todays paved roads with a garden hoe. So all that said, common sense tells me that the true and proper use of the term is "row to hoe" or "Tough row to hoe". If someone told me to go "HOE a Road" I'd tell them where they could put their hoe!! Hope this helps. Have a great day. Big Grin
 
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Makes sense...and welcome to Wordcraft! We hope to see more of you.
 
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Would anyone like a 3-A Gomlet?
 
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Now, here's a hard road to hoe!

There's no doubt in my mind that the original saying was hard row to hoe referring to the difficulty of digging a furrow or weeding with a hoe. It may have originated with farmers, as wordnerd suggested. That certainly seems logical. Some of the early farmers must have encounterd hard, rocky soil, perhaps filled with tree stumps.

But I surmise it may have originated with slaves. I have nothing to back this up, and I may be completely wrong. But a plantation slave did have a hard row to hoe in the cotton fields. He (or she) also had a hard road to hoe, the latter phrase being a take-off on the former. Road, in this sense means "a way or means to achieve something," (Wikipedia) and hoe meaning "do or perform" (my definition).

Indeed, road is well established in this sense, as in the road to ... peace, happiness, success, failure," and so on. Middle-of-the-road usually refers to having ideas or taking actions that are somewhere between two extremes, thus taking a middle course, not to literally being in the middle of a road.

The Maquarie Dictionary is a dictionary of Australian slang, and one of the definitions it gives for hoe in is "to begin something energetically," and for hoe into is " to undertake (a job) with vigour." Admittedly, this is weak in supporting my definition, but it's the best I could find.

"A hard road to hoe" may have originated with this political cartoon.

Here's an explanation of the cartoon:
quote:
This political cartoon was created for the US Presidential election of 1840. The title reads “A Hard Road To Hoe! Or, the White House Turnpike, macadamized by the North Benders.” Please note in the cartoon the parallels to “hard road” & “hard cider” (which is the alcohol that was many times distributed by Whigs at their political party functions to those people that attended). The term “macadamized” means to construct or complete a road using a solid foundation. This cartoon is a crude satire on the obstacles facing Van Buren's reelection effort in 1840. Weighed down by a large bundle labeled "Sub Treasury," Van Buren follows the lead of Andrew Jackson toward the White House. His way is blocked by barrels of "Hard Cider" and log cabins, symbolizing the popular appeal of Harrison's candidacy. In the right distance the Capitol is visible, and in the left distance Van Buren's home at Kinderhook. A mischievous youth stands behind Van Buren thumbing his nose. It also features "OK" which was coined after Martin Van Buren -- "Old Kinderhook."


I started out thinking that road to hoe didn't have any legitimacy, but now I'm not so sure. What do you think?

Tinman

Corrected "Hard row to hoe" to "Hard road to hoe" (typo that Kalleh pointed out on March 3).

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That is the exact reason I posed the question in the first place!
Obviously (oh so astute newbie person) if you think about it, row to hoe is the only logical one. HOWEVER, since I had come across multiple politicians, etc., being quoted, in their oh so official speeches using it wrong, I wanted to know what other people said. We know what is logical, but what comes to mind or out of each individual person's mouth does not always coinside with this.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by TrossL:
That is the exact reason I posed the question in the first place!
Obviously (oh so astute newbie person) if you think about it, row to hoe is the only logical one. HOWEVER, since I had come across multiple politicians, etc., being quoted, in their oh so official speeches using it wrong, I wanted to know what other people said. We know what is logical, but what comes to mind or out of each individual person's mouth does not always coinside with this.

"Oh so astute newbie person?"

I made two mistakes in my previous post. First, I think hoe in road to hoe would better be translated as "travel or go," rather than "do or perform." Thus, hard road to hoe can be translated as " hard road to travel" or "hard way to go."

Second, I had assumed that when you posted the question you were inviting an open and honest dialog. Little did I know you were only willing to tolerate those who agreed with you, and that you would meet any dissent with sarcasm and invective.

Did you even bother to read the sources I linked to? I certainly read all of yours.

Yes, hard row to hoe is logical and no doubt springs from agriculture. It's too bad no one was around in 1840 to tell the creator of that political cartoon that hard road to hoe was just plain wrong. It was an obvious political parody and hard road to hoe is now in the general language, whether you like it or not.

I, too, prefer hard row to hoe, but I'm not willing to condemn hard road to hoe as wrong. But, then, I'm not so wise and omniscient as you.

Tinman

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I found a third mistake in this post (the link to Wikipedia should have been to OneLook), so I'm going to correct two of my mistakes and repost it.
quote:
Originally posted by tinman:
Now, here's a hard road to hoe!

There's no doubt in my mind that the original saying was hard row to hoe referring to the difficulty of digging a furrow or weeding with a hoe. It may have originated with farmers, as wordnerd suggested. That certainly seems logical. Some of the early farmers must have encounterd hard, rocky soil, perhaps filled with tree stumps.

But I surmise it may have originated with slaves. I have nothing to back this up, and I may be completely wrong. But a plantation slave did have a hard row to hoe in the cotton fields. He (or she) also had a hard road to hoe, the latter phrase being a take-off on the former. Road, in this sense means "a way or means to achieve something," (OneLook) and hoe meaning "travel or go" (my definition).

Indeed, road is well established in this sense, as in the road to ... peace, happiness, success, failure," and so on. Middle-of-the-road usually refers to having ideas or taking actions that are somewhere between two extremes, thus taking a middle course, not to literally being in the middle of a road.

The Maquarie Dictionary is a dictionary of Australian slang, and one of the definitions it gives for hoe in is "to begin something energetically," and for hoe into is " to undertake (a job) with vigour." Admittedly, this is weak in supporting my definition, but it's the best I could find.

"A hard road to hoe" may have originated with this political cartoon.

Here's an explanation of the cartoon:
quote:
This political cartoon was created for the US Presidential election of 1840. The title reads “A Hard Road To Hoe! Or, the White House Turnpike, macadamized by the North Benders.” Please note in the cartoon the parallels to “hard road” & “hard cider” (which is the alcohol that was many times distributed by Whigs at their political party functions to those people that attended). The term “macadamized” means to construct or complete a road using a solid foundation. This cartoon is a crude satire on the obstacles facing Van Buren's reelection effort in 1840. Weighed down by a large bundle labeled "Sub Treasury," Van Buren follows the lead of Andrew Jackson toward the White House. His way is blocked by barrels of "Hard Cider" and log cabins, symbolizing the popular appeal of Harrison's candidacy. In the right distance the Capitol is visible, and in the left distance Van Buren's home at Kinderhook. A mischievous youth stands behind Van Buren thumbing his nose. It also features "OK" which was coined after Martin Van Buren -- "Old Kinderhook."


I started out thinking that road to hoe didn't have any legitimacy, but now I'm not so sure. What do you think?

Tinman


Corrected "Hard row to hoe" to "Hard road to hoe" (typo that Kalleh pointed out on March 3).

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Very interesting, Tinman. BTW, I couldn't get the cartoon link to work, but your explanation of it was sufficient. I like your explanation, though I agree that it is just theory. However, the cartoon is more than theory. It talks about the "hard road to hoe" for a political election. I think that validates the use of "hard road to hoe." Why, Tinman, did you think "a hard row to hoe" originated from the political cartoon? Wouldn't it have been "hard road to hoe?"

BTW, I put "row to hoe"/origin into Google, and look what I came up with. Roll Eyes

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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Why, Tinman, did you think "a hard row to hoe" originated from the political cartoon? Wouldn't it have been "hard road to hoe?"

I don't know how I gave you that impression. In my original post I said
    There's no doubt in my mind that the original saying was hard row to hoe
    ... ."

    and

    "But a plantation slave did have a hard row to hoe in the cotton fields. He (or she) also had a hard road to hoe, the latter phrase being a take-off on the former."

I think that hard row to hoe came first, and hard road to hoe came later. It appears that the phrase hard road to hoe originated with the political cartoon, but that may not be so.

Benjamin Tucker wrote The Life of Benjamin R. Tucker when he was 74, which would put it about 1928. In part 3 "Boyhood in New Bedford," he wrote
quote:
In New Bedford, in 1861, even moderate self-determinationists had a hard road to hoe.

Whether he got that phrase from the political poster or it was already in his vocabulary before that, I have no way of knowing.

I got the links to the political cartoon by googling "hard road to hoe." (Be sure to use the quotation marks.) Here are the three that I came up with. Maybe one of them will work for you.

http://loc.harpweek.com/LCPoliticalCartoons/DisplayCart...r=1840&YearMark=1868

http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/11917/mcms.html

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/I?app:19:./temp/~pp...h:m856sf=3a11934:@@@

Tinman
 
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tinman...

I am so sorry. You misunderstood. I was NOT commenting to you when I was sarcastic to the "newbie" person. You are not a newbie and you made valid points that were interesting and thought provoking.
I was commenting to the kcw64 newbie who said,
"Not trying to belittle anyone by any means but if you take the phase and think about it a little"
and
"So all that said, common sense tells me that the true and proper use of the term is "row to hoe" .

Please accept my sincere apologies for this misunderstanding. I totally respect and admire your postings.
 
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quote:
...but if you take the phase and think about it a little...

That phrase is always a red flag for me: experience has taught me that anyone suggesting I think about it a little has probably not thought about it a lot.
 
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Tinman, I was responding to this comment of yours where you posted the political cartoon:
quote:
"A hard row to hoe" may have originated with this political cartoon.

It must have been a typo because in your next post, you then said: "It appears that the phrase hard road to hoe originated with the political cartoon, but that may not be so."

Yes, Tinman, your second links did work for me. It surely authenticates "hard road to hoe." Great find!

I agree with TrossL; you really search for the facts, and I so respect that.
 
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Yes, Kalleh, It was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll go back and correct it now.

Tinman
 
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I was shocked when I saw what I thought was your reply to me. I'm sorry for my misunderstanding and overreaction. I was chagrined with the typo that Kalleh pointed out to me, since that changes my meaning.

Tinman
 
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Tinman, I didn't think you overreacted at all. This has been an excellent discussion. While many of us had thought "road to hoe" was a spoonerism, in fact it wasn't. What a great question, TrossL!
 
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I had to post this story, even though the last post was 2007, just to get it on here with the rest of the "tough row to hoe" posts. I'm only 50 years old but when I was a kid (ages 4-8) during summer stays at my Great-Uncles farm in Mississippi we worked doing small tasks to help around the farm. One of the chores was "hoeing cotton." It simply meant one had to walk between the rows of cotton and hoe the weeds. Mostly "Coffee Weed" as we called it. You needed to hoe at least every 3 days if not sooner as the weeds had a way of growing from nothing into a rather large "bush" seemingly overnight. If you came back after 4 or 5 days between hoeings, it was obvious, there would be some "tough rows to hoe" !
Also, just a memory to share, when it was time to pick the cotton, (and I swear on my best Hot-Wheel car this is the truth) we actually walked between the rows and hand-picked each piece of cotton. We had these LOOOONG cloth bags (maybe hemp bags ?) that had a shoulder strap and as the bag became full it would literally be dragging along the ground behind you. The best part was playing in the HUUUUGE pile of cotton in the "cotton crib." That's as much fun as dumping 20 or 30 bails of hay out of the barn loft and pretending to be an Olympic Diver !
 
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If you must choose ‘tween a road or row
When someone is preparing to hoe,
A hoe’s a farmer’s tool
Used ‘twixt rows as a rule;
On the road you may work with a ho.

Welcome aboard, Teraplanez. I too remember playing Olympic diver but my neighborhood lacked hay so we used cinder blocks instead.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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So you're sprouting your new garden seeds
Can't identify good and bad, indeed,
If you've any doubt
Just pull them all out
The ones that grow back are the weeds.
 
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I too remember playing Olympic diver but my neighborhood lacked hay so we used cinder blocks instead.


We suspected that you showed symptoms of having been dropped on your head in your infancy.

LOL and hahaha
 
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quote:
dropped on your head in your infancy.

Just last week.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Welcome, teraplanez. See your Private Messages (PMs).
 
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