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Gee and Haw in Dog-Sledding

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  • In the recent discussion of sledding dogs and the various commands used to direct them, there was a brief discussion about Gee (for left turn) and Haw (for right turn). This is how my father recalls his father directing the mules and horses on the farm in west Texas in the 1930s and 40s. Those commands surely go back centuries, maybe to the very beginnings of English. We know that the Scandinavian tongues (sometimes called Norse) had a huge influence on the early development of English. It could be just a coincidence, but I can see a possible connection between English “haw” and Scandinavian “right” (as in turn right). In all of the Germanic Scandinavian languages, it begins with a hard H. In Swedish, it is “höger” (which sort of almost rhymes with English “burger”). But Left is “vänster”, nothing like “gee”. I wish I knew some old Scandinavian farmers to ask.

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