"Slights of hand" (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Mon May 18 17:23:30 UTC 2009

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The Conjuring Arts Research Center (http://www.conjuringarts.org/ ) maintains an online full-text searchable database of magic and related periodicals, books, manuscripts, etc called "AskAlexander" (after the mentalist "Alexander, The Man Who Knows" (Claude Alexander Conlin, http://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php/Alexander )).

It is possible to get a sense of the usage of the terms "sleight" and "slight" within the conjuring community from this database.

Found 28361 pages in 2359 documents matching "SLEIGHT OF HAND"
Found 86 pages in 68 documents matching "SLEIGHTS OF HAND"
Found 508 pages in 281 documents matching "SLIGHT OF HAND"
Found 4 pages in 3 documents matching "SLIGHTS OF HAND" [all 4 are 1801 or earlier]

Clearly, "Sleight of hand" is the common, accepted usage.  Other variants are typos, archaic, affectations, and/or non-standard.

If desired, I can probably get a sense of U.S./U.K. usage (by searching within periodicals from America or Britain).

> On Fri, May 8, 2009 at 9:24 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> > In this week's on-line report from an investment advisory newsletter
> > I subscribe to:
> >
> > Magic Tricks
> > Slights of hand, misdirection, pulling sound bites out of hats ...
> >
> > I always thought it was "sleight". Â But the OED has 15 quotations
> > with "slight" (37 with "sleight"). Â Most (I guess 10) are from the
> > pre-standardized-spelling early 18th century -- but the most-recent
> > is 1857--1892.
> I'm more surprised that it's plural.  I always took "sleight of hand"
> to be non-count.  But google gives 30k raw hits for "slights of hand".
> COCA gives:
> 177 sleight of hand
> 10 slights of hand
> 1 slight of hands
> 9 slight of hand
> 1 slights of hand
> 0 slight of hands

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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

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