Where they drove...

Joel Shaver vole at NETW.COM
Wed Feb 15 12:25:24 UTC 2006

I noticed last week that NPR reported the effects of the strike on
voting in Nepal...  In the small paragraph that accompanied the
broadcast, the sentence "As a result, voters stayed home in droves"
was used.  (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?

At the risk of relying upon intuition (mine, and that of two speakers
from my home state, WA, who both laughed when they read the
sentence)...  Do most of us allow any groups of people to *stay*
anywhere in droves?  Especially when it's implied that they are not
physically together?  The version of the Oxford American dictionary
that Apple distributes as a widget has as a secondary definition, "a
large number of people or things doing or undergoing the same thing,"
and the example they give is "tourists have stayed away in droves
this summer."  This seems like an unusual example to me, although
with a stretch of the imagination I can picture large groups of
tourists buzzing around a central attraction at a safe distance, like
mosquitoes over a lake...  The OED emphasizes that a drove is a
"crowd or multitude... esp. when moving in a body."

A search of Google for "stayed home in droves" yields only 405
results, but "stayed away in droves" yields about 16,800!  The total
number of hits for "in droves" is 1,610,000, so it's only about 1% of
the total use, although there are plenty of other ways to express the

Do we have a widening of the field?

Incidentally, a search of the ADS-L archives for the word "droves"
comes up with not many results, and most of them hold with the idea
of people *coming* or *immigrating* or *moving* or *leaving* in
droves, although there was one message that I liked from Steve Kl.
about arsonists who would "set buildings on fire in droves"!  There
was a message from someone in Texas that included the phrase "stayed
away in droves" in a list of Texanese examples form 1962...  So this
type of thing has been going on for a while without anyone asking my
permission, apparently!

I guess that's good for now.

Joel A. Shaver
University of Glasgow
(where everyone droves on the left side of the road)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus
et emitte coelitus
lucis tuae radium.
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.

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

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