barge vs. scow

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Swamp-landia

Senior Member
NYC
Mandarin; Shanghainese
A line from Chapter 17 of Swamplandia! by Karen Russell,

"... no way could an entire dredge barge pass through the Eye; if Ossie and Louis had come this way, they would have had to abandon the barge somewhere and use the dredge scow, a tiny red canoe hung over the barge’s stern like a wooden eyebrow."

What is the difference of a dredge barge and a dredge scow? By what I learn from this quote, a barge is larger than a scow, which is attached to the barge. Am I right?

But there's another quote later in this book:

"The ghost had used her hands to make sure that the dredge barge was firmly attached to the stern of the dredge scow."

Seems here they are totally reversed, no matter in size or in relative position?
 
  • Bender_Bending_Rodriguez

    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    I've never heard of them but based on those sentences I think you're right. The dredge barge is a larger boat and the scow is a small canoe (a boat that holds about one or two people) hanging on the barge.

    The second quote doesn't necessarily mean the scow is bigger. The larger boat could be attached to the stern (back part) the smaller boat and be pulled by it. Like this, http://www.tinyhouselover.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/car-pulling-rv-trailer.jpg, but in the water.
     

    Swamp-landia

    Senior Member
    NYC
    Mandarin; Shanghainese
    I've never heard of them but based on those sentences I think you're right. The dredge barge is a larger boat and the scow is a small canoe (a boat that holds about one or two people) hanging on the barge.

    The second quote doesn't necessarily mean the scow is bigger. The larger boat could be attached to the stern (back part) the smaller boat and be pulled by it. Like this, http://www.tinyhouselover.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/car-pulling-rv-trailer.jpg, but in the water.
    Now I tend to believe that the author is unwittingly confused herself. See some lines from Chapter 7:

    Inside the cabin of the dredge scow we found:
    Flaking metal everywhere in these fantastic reds and greens;

    The staring socket of a pole stuck straight out of the floor;

    A box of lemon candies called MISS CALLIE’S PIXIE DUST, which looked like the flavors of spinsterdom
    , yellow and soda brown...

    How could a canoe hold such a big cabin that contains so many things? Simply, how could a canoe have a cabin? Maybe she is supposed to say "inside the cabin of the dredge barge" here?
     

    Bender_Bending_Rodriguez

    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    I think you're right. She definitely made a mistake somewhere. Another possibility is that the scow is also a big boat (but smaller than the barge) and the part about the canoe was supposed to be another sentence. "... abandon the barge somewhere and use the dredge scow. A tiny red canoe hung over the barge’s stern like a wooden eyebrow." Seems like a weird place for that sentence though.
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Scows and barges are both flat-bottomed. A scow is self-propelled, a barge needs a towboat to move it.

    I agree that the author is seriously confused.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Umm... I'm not sure Ms Russell is confused, Swamp-landia. In the second sentence you quote in post 1:
    The ghost had used her hands to make sure that the dredge barge was firmly attached to the stern of the dredge scow.
    the scow has just had an engine attached to it, and it appears that the characters are planning to tow the barge with the scow, as Bender_Bending_Rodriguez suggests.

    And in the version of the novel I've found via google (click), the text you quote in post 3 has
    Inside the cabin of the dredge barge we found:
    Flaking metal everywhere in these fantastic reds and greens.....

     

    Swamp-landia

    Senior Member
    NYC
    Mandarin; Shanghainese
    Umm... I'm not sure Ms Russell is confused, Swamp-landia. In the second sentence you quote in post 1:
    The ghost had used her hands to make sure that the dredge barge was firmly attached to the stern of the dredge scow.
    the scow has just had an engine attached to it, and it appears that the characters are planning to tow the barge with the scow, as Bender_Bending_Rodriguez suggests.

    And in the version of the novel I've found via google (click), the text you quote in post 3 has
    Inside the cabin of the dredge barge we found:
    Flaking metal everywhere in these fantastic reds and greens.....

    Oh! Really? If that's the case, then it must be the e-book edition that makes the mistake. Probably they correct it after profreading.
    Thank you Loob.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    a barge needs a towboat to move it.
    Not at all - a barge may be self-propelled - by oars, sails or an engine. The original use in English was a small sea-going vessel propelled by sails. It later came to mean a flat-bottomed cargo vessel which could lack propulsion, particularly on the canals where the barges were drawn by horses. In that case a common synonym is lighter (or dumb barge), and that is the preferred word for such a vessel in waterways where there are self-propelled barges. (But the term horse-drawn barge remains more usual than lighter for the inland canal system in the UK)

    The author seems to have misused the word scow, which does not mean "a tiny canoe". It either means a flat-bottomed lighter or punt, or a type of sailing boat developed in the USA, principally for racing. I was forced to find the text to check, and there are references to them paddling the scow and pulling it by hand - clearly she did mean canoe, and it is small.
     

    Swamp-landia

    Senior Member
    NYC
    Mandarin; Shanghainese
    Scows and barges are both flat-bottomed. A scow is self-propelled, a barge needs a towboat to move it.

    I agree that the author is seriously confused.
    Please see the rest part of my quote from Chapter 17:

    "...no way could an entire dredge barge pass through the Eye; if Ossie and Louis had come this way, they would have had to abandon the barge somewhere and use the dredge scow, a tiny red canoe hung over the barge’s stern like a wooden eyebrow. The scow didn’t have a motor; she and Louis would have had to paddle hard."

    And then in quote from Chapter 22,
    "The ghost had taught her how to rig a 5.5 horsepower engine to the back of the dredge scow..."
    This time the scow has an engine again!

    So I'm still suspicious that the author is confused herself. She uses "barge" and "scow" in a very casual way. And someone (the editor or herself) must have corrected the obvious mistake in the Chapter 7 case, but still leave other places untouched.
     
    Last edited:

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    "The ghost had taught her how to rig a 5.5 horsepower engine to the back of the dredge scow..."
    This time the scow has an engine again!
    Not a problem. A 5.5 HP engine is a fairly small outboard motor and something that could readily be rigged to a canoe (I'm assuming that when the author says "canoe" she means something like an American-Indian canoe and not a kayak). The important wording is "how to rig ... an engine to the back of the ... scow" - the engine is not part of the scow but has been added to it. It is not unusual to use a small boat fitted with an outboard motor to move a larger one if the larger one's engine has failed.

    The author's only failing is a technical one - it is far more effective to tow alongside than to tow behind a small boat, but that is not a matter of language.
     

    Swamp-landia

    Senior Member
    NYC
    Mandarin; Shanghainese
    Not a problem. A 5.5 HP engine is a fairly small outboard motor and something that could readily be rigged to a canoe (I'm assuming that when the author says "canoe" she means something like an American-Indian canoe and not a kayak). The important wording is "how to rig ... an engine to the back of the ... scow" - the engine is not part of the scow but has been added to it. It is not unusual to use a small boat fitted with an outboard motor to move a larger one if the larger one's engine has failed.

    The author's only failing is a technical one - it is far more effective to tow alongside than to tow behind a small boat, but that is not a matter of language.
    Thanks Andygc~

    I could fall asleep right here, he thought. His own square face surprised him in the water below the scow; he had at some point pitched forward on the railing. (Chapter 9)

    Could a canoe scow has railing?
     
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