[Ads-l] wondering about the origin of "sleigh riding" in New York

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 1 22:10:44 UTC 2021

I’ve always had the vague feeling that “sleigh” can be used to mean “sled,” whether as a noun or a verb. 

The OED and Merriam-Webster say that a sleigh is “usually” drawn by horses. Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sleigh <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sleigh>) rightfully notes that it’s usually drawn by an animal, giving an example with Santa Claus.

One OED example has no horses: "At the summit we found basket-work sleighs, each constructed to hold two people, and attended by a couple of men, lashed together.” It is a “basket-work sleigh” with steel runners and is steered by men down the slope. (https://tinyurl.com/ycon7dqr <https://tinyurl.com/ycon7dqr>). There is also a "sleigh” described as being drawn by bulls/bullocks on pp 15 and 16.

The OED says that a sled is a sledge or sleigh used as a travel/recreation vehicle.

Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
Formerly of Seattle, WA

> On 1 Jan 2021, at 13:10, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> A quick look at DARE indicates that, historically at least, it's a lot more
> extensive than that. Def 2 of "sleigh" (including "sleigh riding") is
> listed as "scattered, but esp South Midland, Central Atlantic, Inland
> North." Citations start in 1827 in Pennsylvania.
> Entry: https://www.daredictionary.com/view/dare/ID_00053234
> Map: https://www.daredictionary.com/view/maps/sleigh2map.png
> On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 4:04 PM Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:
>> A quick look at Google indicates it's a NJ thing.
>> On Fri, Jan 1, 2021, 1:21 PM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> I 've never heard the term "sleigh-riding" applied to sleds, but when I
>> was
>>> a tad in NYC in the mid-1950s, I called a sled a "sleigh" till I was five
>>> or six years old, and I don't recall ever being directly corrected.
>>> "Sleigh" for "sled" is likewise reflected in this:
>>> 1895 _New York Herald_ (Jan. 30) 10: Further on two little girls in
>> knitted
>>> hoods hop cheerily along with a skate apiece, followed at  distance by a
>>> tot with a sled. An envious mate calls out, "Ho, don't them Brown girls
>>> think they're fine wid skates and a sleigh!"
>>> The Dictionary of American Regional English has an entry with quotations
>>> beginning in Ohio in 1827, the first of which actually includes the term
>>> "sleigh-riding.":
>>> "Two weeks since, it was ...covered with boys and men amusing themselves
>>> with skating and sleigh-riding on the ice, for want of snow."
>>> JL
>>> On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 12:11 PM Michael Malone <mikemalone5a at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Hi! I sincerely hope I did this correctly and did not violate the
>> norms.
>>>> I'm a journalist looking to do a story on the term "sleigh riding",
>> which
>>>> is how snow sledding is referred to in New York, despite there not
>> being
>>> a
>>>> sleigh involved. Wondering if anyone might help trace where/when/how
>> the
>>>> term came to be.
>>>> Thank you and happy new year.
>>>> Mike Malone
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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