sleuth = slew

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Feb 7 19:06:13 UTC 2006

On 2/7/06, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 9:04 AM -0800 2/7/06, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> >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?
> I was going to suggest motivating it as a blend of "slew" and "rath",
> but then I realized I was thinking of "raft".  Never mind.

Hmm... as a matter of fact, "wrath" is a not infrequent alteration of
"raft" = 'large number (of things)':

WC Varones notes the irony for McCain - whose Gang of 14 allowed a wrath of pro
1st Amendment jurists to be seated on benches that will.. - Well, I won't steal
his thunder.
Prior to 9/11 we as citizens and legal residents of the US were already forced
to deal with a wrath of criminal activity.
a 'wrath' of updates have occured.
Canon announce a wrath of new printers
The fog was dense and the traffic, like a wrath of inconsiderate
cousins suddenly
descending on my home.

This substitution is probably influence by "wrath of God", "The Wrath
of Khan", etc., and in many cases is recognizably an eggcorn (when
"wrath" is quantifying something potentially wrathful).

So perhaps "sleuth" is a second-order eggcorn, blending "slew" with
eggcornic "wrath".

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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