move over, "sleptwalked"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jun 8 14:01:26 UTC 2008

We've discussed the double preterit "sleptwalked" as a past tense of
"sleepwalk" (2010 google hits, compared to 48,700 for the standard
"sleepwalked").  We don't have too many other candidates for this
doubly-conjugated or doubly-declined status (locus classicus: Lat.
"res publica"; accusative "rem publicam", genitive "rei publicae",
etc.), but here's one from *my subscription copy* of today's Times,
first page of the SportsSunday section, reporting on a horse race
yesterday that received some attention:

So when Kent Desormeaux approached the final turn and asked Big Brown
to engage those booster rockets that had slungshot him to victory in
the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, a hot and sweaty crowd
of 94,476 stood and roared, anticipating that he would swoosh past
the grandstand and into immortality.

Now if you check the online version of the article, at
you'll find that _slungshot_ has been "corrected", so the passage now
refers to "those booster rockets that had slingshotted him to
victory".  The author of the piece is the celebrated Times racing
reporter and author of the recently well received book _To the Swift:
Classical Triple Crown Horses and Their Race for Glory_ (whose
paperback version will not require an appendix on Big Brown).

I tried googling "slungshot" but the first few pages of hits involve
an alternate form of the noun rather than the past tensed verb.  But
just what is that verb, anyway?  Is it in fact "slingshoot" (a la
"sleepwalk"), which itself would involve a back-formation of
"slingshot"? Hard to tell, and once again most occurrences seem to
involve yet another variant of the *noun*, not the verb.  I'd guess
(and whoever post-edited Drape's piece for the online edition must
have as well) that the standard form of the verb is taken to be
"slingshot", as a zero-formation, rather than "slingshoot"; the OED
concurs.  There's even a cite that employs a racing metaphor,
although involving cars rather than horses:

1969 Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va.) 5 July 6/4 'I could stay
with him in a draft (the two cars running one behind the other).'..
Yarborough said he purposely gave Baker two chances to slingshot past
to learn if he was fast enough.

So while my first take on Drape's "slungshot" was to take it as a
double preterit of "slingshoot", the evidence is murky.


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