sleuth = slew

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Feb 7 17:04:35 UTC 2006

I came across this eggcornish substitution recently:

The University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill has a sleuth of digitalized literature that documents the
American southern history and culture.

I'm hesitant to put this in the Eggcorn Database, since I don't see
any possible semantic rationalization for using "sleuth". So is it a
plain old malaprop?

This is a pretty common substitution, as it turns out. Here are some
other recent examples from a blog search:

So it seems that iMac is one the most stylish and efficient desktop in
the world with a sleuth of innovative features like 2.0 GHz. Intel
Core Duo processor, a gig of RAM and cool iSight camera all in a small
form factor.
The magical way music brings forth a sleuth of emotions, and feelings.
I took a sleuth of tests on Emode out of boredom during the holidays.
all i do is work and go to shows (i have a sleuth of concerts lined
up, my only happiness).
After the first round of benchmarks, I received a sleuth of e-mails
asking for the raw numbers.
There was a whole sleuth of classes that I could take as well.

(There are also scattered references to "sleuth" as a collective name
for a group of bears, which looks like a variant of "sloth (of
bears)". I doubt that this sense has much of an influence on the
"slew"/"sleuth" substitution, however.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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