Sloo and Slough aka Emily of Deep Valley

My beautiful picture A version of this was originally published on Beyond Little House.

Pronounce It Sloo or Sl-wow

When I was in De Smet, South Dakota one summer, although this happens almost every time I go, I was talking about the Big Slough and how you pronounce it. You get people who pronounce slough rhymes with moo and slough rhymes with cow. As always a quote from Emily of Deep Valley popped into my head. Emily of Deep Valley is by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Maud Hart Lovelace and Betsy-Tacy

Lovelace is most famous for her Betsy-Tacy books that were loosely based on her life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota. Her childhood home and the home belonging to her inspiration for Tacy have been purchased by the society and restored in appearance to when Maud/Betsy would have lived there. There is talk about getting Tib’s house (the other lead character in the books) as well which is on the next street. Places out of these books really exist, much as they do for Laura and other places from the books have been created by fans. The fan organization, the Betsy-Tacy Society is extremely well organized and puts on a very professional conference. Most fans love the main cycle of Betsy-Tacy books best (they are now all back in print so you can read them for yourself), but the one with a special place in my heart is Emily of Deep Valley, a sort of sequel to the side. Emily doesn’t appear in the other Besty-Tacy books, she’s several years younger than Betsy, but the Betsy-Tacy-Tib characters do make a rather large cameo appearance in Emily. I loved it because it’s such a beautiful picture of large town life at the time when high schools were becoming common. It’s a lovely little epoch until the Great War brings it all down, but in their Edwardian time bubble they can’t know that. I also admire Emily’s spirit and her plans which, due to her grandfather’s needs and old-fashioned perceptions, can’t include college. It was Emily I loved.

The Big Slough Or You Say Tomato

But to get back to De Smet and the Big Slough, other fans I talked to said they had the same thing happen to them. Hearing people refer to slough, as sl-wow instead of sloo also reminded them of Emily. It’s so nice to be with people who understand you. I hope you can make your own trip to De Smet and experience it for yourself.

Oh, and the other thing a slough reference makes pop into my head is Cherry Jones reading Farmer Boy. Jones, clearly not a farm girl, says hay mow (rhymed with row) instead of hay mow (rhymes with now). Every time I listen to it, I spend the whole time I listen to Farmer Boy automatically correcting her. Now you can too. ;-)

Lovelace, Maud Hart. Emily of Deep Valley. New York: Harper Trophy, 2000. ISBN 0064408582

“The Deep Valley slough, pronounced sloo, was the marshy inlet of a river. When Emily had first read Pilgrim’s Progress, after finding it mentioned in Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women, she had pronounced the Slough of Despond sloo, too. She had called it sloo until Miss Fowler had told her in English class that Bunyan’s Slough rhymed with “how.” Miss Fowler had made the correction in a casual unembarrassing way, putting her emphasis on the fact that Emily alone, out of the class, had read Pilgrim’s Progress.” pp.15-16.

Summary of Emily of Deep Valley

To flesh out the book a little more Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can’t leave her grandfather and it never even occurs to him that he might send her. Emily resigns herself to facing a “lost winter,” but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. With a new program of study (both on her own and with a woman’s club in town), a growing interest in the Syrian immigrant community she can help, and a handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed. This is one of three non-Betsy-Tacy novels set in the same community of Deep Valley, a stand in for her home town of Mankato, Minnesota. I love this book because it really depicts the time period so well.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.


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Sarah Uthoff - Trundlebed Tales

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

5 thoughts on “Sloo and Slough aka Emily of Deep Valley”

  1. Loved this all around. Emily and To Kill a Mockingbird are my two favorite books. In it, she first taught me to say sl-wow. 🙂

    I cringe every time I hear “mow” in Farmer Boy. I had to explain to my little girl that Jones said it incorrectly.


  2. Being from the upper Midwest (near Mankato), I’m going with the native pronunciation: A slough (slew) is a muddy swamp. The word is used quite often in this area as wetlands are highly prized. Never in my 56 years have I heard it pronounced sl-wow until reading this today. jmo


  3. Well, I’m glad I read this. I had no idea that haymow was pronounced hay\-ˌmau̇\. Learn something new everyday! I used to work at a company that had an office in a town in England called Slough. The English pronounce it \-ˌslau̇\, but all the Americans pronounced it like ‘slow.’


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