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Friday 30 November 2012

Word To Use Today: tod.

Tod: one word, three letters, and three quite different meanings.


Tod started off as a unit of weight for wool (neat, isn't it, to have a unit specially for wool). A tod was usually equal to 28 pounds, says my dictionary, which is a quarter of a long hundredweight.* 

(I love that usually: the world of tods must have been a charming Alice-in-Wonderland sort of place if even the words for measuring things didn't have a fixed meaning.)

The second meaning of tod occurs in a slang expression which means to be alone. I'm on me tod, a Londoner might announce. (My dictionary hilariously lists this expression as on one's tod, but this could only conceivably be uttered a peer of the realm pretending to be a London barrow boy.)

The third tod you'll find in Scotland or the North of England, where it's a fox.

As if that wasn't enough, TOD has a varied life as an abbrebriation for Time Of Day and Time Of Death; Television On Demand and Television On the Desktop; Top Of Descent (in aviation) and Transit-Oriented Development (in planning).

Then there's El-Tod, which is an archaeological site in Egypt, and Mount Tod, which is in British Columbia in Canada:

File:Mount Tod.jpg

Isn't that lovely?

Word To Use Today: tod. Hm, so we have a piece of cockney slang, an obsolete measure of weight, and a dialect word for fox. This isn't going to be easy to use, is it.

I don't know, though, perhaps I'm on me tod should be used more widely. It has the advantage of not being self-pitying or pathetic, which I'm alone tends to be.

The weight sort of a tod is probably related to the Old Frisian todde, which meand rag, and the Old High German zotta, a tuft of hair. On me tod is rhyming slang, after Tod Sloan (alone**), who was a jockey. Tod meaning fox has been around since the 1100s, but slunk in from no one knows where.

*A long hundredweight is of course one where a hundred =112.

**This is what it says in my Collins dictionary, but, as my husband points out, surely the rhyme should be with own, ie: on me tod = on me own, not on me tod = on me alone.

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