What does Ponyboy say is the difference between "tuff" and "tough"?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Early in S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders, the story's narrator, Ponyboy Curtis, is describing the nature of his and his fellow "Greasers" existence.  The Greasers are boys from 'the wrong side of the tracks,' the kids from lower-income families whose outlook tends toward bleakness and who are in a perpetual state of war against the children from families much higher up on the socioeconomic spectrum.  Discussing his wounds with older, tougher Greasers, Ponyboy is compilmented by Dallas Winston, the quintessential tough guy, an by Two-Bit, another Greaser, about his bruises and cuts:

"Nice-lookin' bruise you got there, kid."
I touched my cheek gingerly. "Really?"
Two-Bit nodded sagely. "Nice cut, too. Makes you look tough."

At this point, Ponyboy explains the difference between "tuff" and "tough," which he describes as follows:

"Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp--- like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments."

Basically, "tuff," in Hinton's use, is analogous to "phat" in modern terminology, the manipulation of a word for social purposes.

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cburr's profile pic

cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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He mentions the difference between the two words in Chapter 1, right after he tells about all the main characters:

Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp—like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments.

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chranjoutus's profile pic

chranjoutus | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

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"tuff" means being cool  and awesome; something new and exciting

"tough" is the ordinary version of tough as in being strong and strout

morganestroud's profile pic

morganestroud | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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Tough and tuff are two different words.

  • Tough is the same as rough;
  • Tuff means cool, sharp—like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments.

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