Tow the line or Toe the line???

Discussion in 'The NAAFI Bar' started by Barrelspanner, Oct 22, 2007.

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  1. Is it 'Toe the line' or 'Tow the line'? and;

    while we are at it is it

    Toe-rag or Tow rag?

    Enquiring (or is it Inquiring) minds need to know
  2. "Toe" for both. Back to work! :wink:
  3. It's toe the line. I believe it's from fist fighting where both boxers were told to toe the line and stand there battering each other to hades. A bit like milling, but without the movement.
  4. I heard a version of Tow-rag, that involved urchins climbing up 16" gun barrels in Singapore carrying a rope for the sailors to pull the 'tow' or cloth through for cleaning, so the kids were called 'tow-rags', something along those lines anyway. Anybody else heard that one, I think its much better than slang for an arabs footwear!
  5. I thought, dim distant memory that the boxers had to step up to the mark.
    Toe the line is from the line in the House of commons that is infront of the seats that the honourable (not) members must not cross as it keeps them a set distance apart that is longer than two swords, they may only put their toes onto it.
    Off to fil thermos flask and look at trains now
  6. Yup, term comes from cotton tow - a form of waste cloth used for cleaning.

    Therefore, calling someone a tow-rag implies you view them as rubbish not fit for much.

    Toe-rag would be an impoverished person's toe-sock which, I suppose, could have some possibilities as an insult but you'd have to work at it :D
  7. [spotter mode]

    It's Toe the line and Tow Rag.

    Tow Rag comes from the bit of rag that was used for wiping your arse on board old sailing ships, the rag was tied to a rope and towed along in the water to clean it ready for the next person to use it.

    So when you refer to a brat as a little tow rag you are calling them a shit wipe.

    [/spotter mode]
  8. I thought "toe the line" was a naval expression meaning being able to prove you were sober by walking toe to toe along a straight line painted on the deck.
  9. OK ...... TRUE .... or BLUFF ?

    Have to admit that the Parliamentary version is one I've heard before, but had earlier assumed that it was on a hauling crew or such-like, which would have made it Towing the line.

    This from the way the phrase was usually used, which was not just getting people to behave, but actually support a common activity/goal.

    However - some research in where this crops up in literature has surely been done, and my assumption may (just may) be wrong.
  10. You may indeed be correct. Maybe both versions are right though. You may put your thermos away.
  11. Indeed; if however a Member stepped over the line the rest of the House would shout "Toe the Line!".

  12. Actually this starts to make sense of the whole lot, imagine your ship is happily towing its poo-rags along behind it, everyone gets a nice clean tow-rag, and all is well......suddenly no wind, days spent becalmed, poo-rags aren't getting their usual cleansing action from being towed behind the boat, suddenly the Bosun spies a miscreant, "Oi, you there, tow-rag, get the lighter out and 'Tow the Line'. Said salior then rows around the ship, with a line of tow-rags out behind being given a good cleaning.

    Hard to believe I know, but stranger things have happened at sea!
  13. I am pretty sure that "Toe The Line" was a word of command given to the "nippers" on a square-rigged man-o-war. It meant "get into position and stand-by"

    A square rigged ship used capstans to raise the anchor, these pulled on a messenger rope that ran in a big loop round the ships deck between the two capstans, like the cam belt on your car. The "Nippers" used "nips"- short lengths of rope - to bind the anchor chain (actually a thick rope) to the messenger rope as it came onto the deck and then undo the binding as it neared the capstan. On a ship like HMS Victory you would have had up to 20 or 30 nippers all running like fuck to keep the messenger and anchor chain nipped together.
  14. B_AND_T

    B_AND_T LE Book Reviewer

    That sounds like a shag with the Ex Mrs B&T!
  15. Other early examples of 'toe the ...' have a nautical connection. In the 19th century, sailors were expected to prepare themselves for group punishment by standing in formation on deck and 'toeing the line' between boards - also called 'toeing the crack'.
    The whole gang being sent for on the quarter-deck, werethen ranged in a line, each with their toes at the edge of a plank, according to the orthodox fashion of these gregarious scoldings, technically called toe-the-line matches."

    Which is the source? Well, no one knows. What is for certain - it is toe, not tow.