Where they drove...

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 15 14:05:32 UTC 2006

I'm accustomed to hearing or reading "stayed away in droves," etc. But
I've always regarded it as a jocular thing. I.e., people who use such
forms are consciously aware of their proper use and are purposely
misusing them for effect.


On 2/15/06, Joel Shaver <vole at netw.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Joel Shaver <vole at NETW.COM>
> Subject:      Where they drove...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?
> storyId=5198559)
> 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
> idea.
> 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)
> --------------------------------
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> et emitte coelitus
> lucis tuae radium.
> Veni, pater pauperum,
> veni, dator munerum,
> veni, lumen cordium.
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