Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Slough


Merriam-Webster says:
to engulf in a slough : to plod through or as if through mud : slog

Which was not what I was expecting. I could've sworn there's a verb form of slough (rhymes with tough) that's used in conjuntion with off to mean: a layer coming off the underlying structure in chunks. As I drove down the highway, the layer of snow on the roof sloughed off. Spectacularly.

There is, of course, also the noun version of slough (rhymes with plow) which is a deep, thick mud-pit. A mire. I remember it well from reading Pilgrim's Progress -- the Slough of Despond. 

So I went to and there it was: to be or become shed or cast off and to dispose or get rid of; cast (often followed by off). Merriam-Webster fail.

There are several pronunciations and spellings listed for this word. I really want to hear from people on this. Please comment with your thoughts.

I'm calling this a ten cent word, both as a noun and a verb. Since it's not that common, it needs to be surrounded by similarly unusual/semi-archaic/poetic vocabulary. My example above isn't so good. 

More specific than:

As a verb, more specific than erode or shed. As a noun, it's a specific kind of marshy/boggy place. Not much different than a mire, but it might be deeper.

Word relationships:
Cast off, mentioned at, is more about discrete things -- casting off clothes, or casting off bad habits. Peeling specifically requires layers, whereas I've always thought of sloughing off as chunky. Possibly rotten. Molt is listed as a synonym, but it's not how I would expect to see it used.

What comes to your mind?

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