dragged/dredged eggcorn?

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 18 06:36:06 UTC 2009

I came across an article on college hacks that presented the following line:

 >>After a couple of days of drama - allegedly _the river was even
dragged_ - the Harvard Chief of Police received a tip that he should
show up on a certain road at a certain time and follow a certain car.

The expression above was likely adopted directly from

 >>The newspapers worked overtime gushing forth hyperventilated prose
about the blasphemy of “cod-napping” such a sacred relic. State police
were called in to assist with the search. _The Charles River was dragged._

The MuseumOfHoaxes site is mentioned in the piece, so there is no
question that the descriptions are connected.

What jumped at me, however, is the use of "dragged the river". It
sounded, at best, eggcornish. It did not take a lot of digging to find
more examples.

 From Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne,
National Alumni 1923:

 >>_The river was dragged_ and the body recovered.

 From NYT 6 April 1909--a story about a young couple committing suicide
by jumping into the Mississippi:

 >>Earlier this morning the search resumed, and _the river has been
dragged_ for several miles below the town.

I thought that perhaps there is just parallel drag/dredge use in this
context and I didn't pay sufficient attention to the phrase in the past
to have any real basis for solid judgment. I also happen to be short on
dictionaries. But here are a few examples of "dredging".

 From 91 Pacific Reporter 626 (1907):

 >>In proceedings by a railroad company to condemn a right of way, it
appeared that defendants' land had a frontage of 455 feet on a river
bank, and was at a considerable distance inland from Puget Sound, that
the river had but little depth, and that large vessels could not reach
defendants' land unless _the river was dredged_ between it and Puget
Sound. It did not appear that any _dredging of the river_ to any point
within two miles of defendants' land had ever been contemplated, and it
was shown that the possibility of the _river being dredged_ was very
remote, and that there was no certainty that the United States
government would ever require a drawbridge near defendants' land, and
that the government had authorized a stationary bridge which did not
touch defendants' land.

 From NYT 13 July 1887--recovering bodies from the capsized yacht Mystery:
 >>Having ascertained the spot where Mystery upset, they began _dredging
the channel_ carefully, continuing over a quarter of a mile in each
direction. The men who _dredged for the bodies_ yesterday reported that
the water was 35 feet deep at the place the yacht overturned, thus
exploding the theory that the centerboard of the Mystery had struck bottom.

Were Dredging for Her Body When Their Skiff Overturned. RESCUERS JUST

 >>While _dredging for the body_ of Mrs. Lena Arnheim of 647 Prospect
Avenue, who is supposed to have thrown herself from City Island Bridge
last Thursday night, three men were drowned last night in Pelham Bay,
off Locust Point.

A "Paul Engle" quotation:

 >>"Writing is like this -- you dredge for the poem's meaning the way
_police dredge for a body_."

30 July 2006:

 >>He worked on a boat and is describing pointing out areas which should
be _dredged for bodies_ after a serious accident at sea.

There is little doubt in my mind that the meaning of "dredge" and "drag"
in these examples is identical. The specific difference between
"dragging the river" vs. "dredging for bodies" is due to the respective
search strings ("dredging the river" gave too many unrelated examples to
make it usable).

There is a very brief "discussion" on the Eggcorn Forum that includes
"drag" and "dredge" along with several other variants, but the topic is
more closely related to "the dregs of Society". I did not find any
references to dreg/drag/dredge in the Eggcorn Database. I have a
distinct preference for "dredge" in this context, even though "dredging
the river/channel" can also mean clearing out silt to create a navigable
passage. Or are "dredge" and "drag" equivalent here? Or, perhaps, is
this one of those disambiguating phenomena where one word replaces
another because the second word becomes more closely associated with a
different action (clearing a channel, in this case)?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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