Friday, July 22, 2005


How Do I Pronounce Slough?

You've got my sympathy if you are not entirely sure about this word. It just so happens that slough has several meanings depending on its pronounciation. When prounouned as slow or (to complicate matters), slew, it means: a place of deep mud or mire or a state of moral degradation or spiritual dejection according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. When prounouced as sluff it means something that may be shed or cast off or to shed or cast off according to Merriam-Webster. It means to shed something, for example, the skin of snake or as an abstract concept to disregard or overcome something as in: He sloughed off his colleague's comment.

I have completely avoided the word in its slow or slew form, and while I may say it from time to time, hardly ever write it in its sluff form. Hopefully, you will be more courageous than I.

Ya know what.... Slough is a town in England just south of London. It is pronounced Slough as if saying owww at the end.
In case that wasn't obvious, Anon means that the town Slough rhymes with cow. The name does of course come from the soggy marsh which used to surround it. But (in spite of now being a successful electronics town) it has "always" been a subject of jokes about being boring and a cause of despondency.

In the early 1930s, ie well pre-war, the Poet laureate John Betjeman wrote flippantly
"Come friendly bombs and rain on Slough
It is not fit for humans now
Blow to bits and smithereens
Those air-conditioned bright canteens"
Strangely, he is said to have written those lines while on holiday in Ireland.

After the war, it was greatly extended as a new town for bombed out Londoners, and arguably became what Betjeman joked about.

More recently, the original (English) version of "The Office" which is (or will shortly be) on TV in the USA, was set in Slough. Nuff said.

Actually, I believe it's not totally amodyne, although new towns are rarely as interesting as old ones, but it is just the butt of jokes. I have always suspected that the jokes started due to intellectual snobbery about its name.
...I believe it's not totally amodyne...

I think you might mean anodyne, yes?
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