Where they drove...

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Feb 15 16:07:25 UTC 2006

The phrase I've always been familiar with is "stay away in droves."  Movie reviewers seem to say it frequently, but not generally with a straight face.

  I've always felt there was a good deal of linguistic hilarity in PIE, if only we would reach out for it.


"Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Dennis R. Preston"

Subject: Re: Where they drove...

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 wrote:
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>> Sender: American Dialect Society
>> Poster: Joel Shaver
>> 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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