Where they drove...

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Wed Feb 15 14:49:39 UTC 2006

Wilson, you are right in pointing out that this is a joke, but isn't
the history of the language full of jokes. Some of us well-educated
wags started saying something in one generation, and the next (poorly
educated, it goes without saying) generations didn't get our
cutting-edge humor and instituted a change  in the language. I take
this to be a case of apparent change from above that turns out to be
actually change from below (obviating the need for me to return to my
sociolinguistics classes with yet another counter-example to the
change-from-below norm).


>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:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  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)
>>  --------------------------------
>>  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
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
preston at msu.edu

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

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