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

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 1, Ponyboy gets beat up by a group of Socs, and the Greasers come to his aid. After the Socs run away and things settle down, Two-Bit notices Pony's bruise on his cheek. As Pony is smoking a cigarette, Two-Bit tells him, "Nice cut, too. Makes you look tough" (Hinton, 11). Ponyboy then explains to the reader the difference between the words "tough" and "tuff." Pony says that "tough" is the same things as "rough," while "tuff" means sharp or cool. Pony then mentions that both words are considered compliments. The word "tuff" is a slang term that the Greasers use throughout the novel to describe anything they think is attractive and cool. In chapter 2, Ponyboy describes Marcia and Cherry Valance as "tuff-looking" because they are attractive and well-dressed. Pony also refers to specific cars as being "tuff." Hinton uses a variety of slang terms throughout the novel to add to the realistic nature and setting of the story.

cburr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

chranjoutus | Student

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

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

morganestroud | Student

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.