Why do "tug" boats push their barges?

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SuperXW

Senior Member
Why do "tug" boats push their barges?
I saw this sentence in a post where lists many funny questions regarding English language. But I don't quite understand this and why it's funny. Could you explain?

Thank you!
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    You should look in the dictionary at the meanings of tug and push.

    If you still need help after you have done this, please tell us what you think the sentence means. That will give us a starting point for explaining what you are missing.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    You should look in the dictionary at the meanings of tug and push.

    If you still need help after you have done this, please tell us what you think the sentence means. That will give us a starting point for explaining what you are missing.
    Tug/tugboat are new words for me. I checked them and I think "tug" here simply means "pull/tow". I think if the barges are at behind, the movement should be called "pull/tow". So why "push"?

    I checked the meanings of "push" also but they are rather abstract. i.e.
    (push off) exert pressure with an oar so as to move a boat out from a bank.
    (push off) Brit. informal go away; depart.
    I appreciate if you can show me some examples. How do you use "push" and "tugboat" together?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The sentence is puzzled by the same thing. Tug means 'pull', but tugboats push barges, and push is the opposite of pull. The joke is to point out that it is strange that we call them tugboats, when what they really do is push. Maybe they should be called pushboats.

    (I don't know whether this kind of thing is a joke to Chinese people. English-speaking people often think it's funny to show that language doesn't make sense.)
     
    Last edited:

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    The sentence is puzzled by the same thing. Tug means 'pull', but tugboats push barges, and push is the opposite of pull. The joke is to point out that it is strange that we call them tugboats, when what they really do is push. Maybe they should be called pushboats.
    I think I know why now. In my mind all tugboats should work like this. (Links of pictures just for illustration.)
    http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/photofiles/list/5359/7014tugboat.jpg
    or
    http://www.ianztrainz.com.au/dock8450.jpg
    These are definately "pull" or "tug" right?

    Not until later I realized that many tugboats do "push" barges.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    "Tug" boats did originally pull other boats, and sometimes they still do. In some circumstances, a "tugboat" is attached alongside a disabled or unmaneuverable vessel; one could say they were "pushing" the bow, but they would still be "tugging" the stern. The original use of "tug" boats was to pull sailing ships out of a harbor when the wind was in the wrong direction for them to get out by using their sails.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Tugboats do more than push barges.

    Around here, ocean-going tugs also pull disabled ships into the harbor. Had I known this was going to come up, I would have taken a photo of just such an event that passed us by near the mouth of the Columbia River last Monday as we were fishing for sturgeon. :(

    So, you'll just have to make do with the photo at this Wikipedia page.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Tugs (tugboats) are used to move other vessels. The tug can pull or push boats/ships.

    "Why do tugs push their barges?" sounds like the start of a joke. :D

    GF..

    Because they were at the back instead of at the front.. Not a good joke... :thumbsdown:
     
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