Friday, November 25, 2011

In Droves

A headline in Friday’s South Bend Tribune declared that shoppers were hitting the malls in droves. That’s an interesting word, although it has a bit of an old-fashioned flavor.

If you’ve ever read a western novel or seen a western movie, you’re familiar with the term cattle drive. To drive was to force animals to move in a desired direction. The action might involve beating or whipping or shouting; there was always some kind of intimidation. An old proverb observed, “he must needs go, whom the devil drives.”

Originally, a drove was a herd or a flock—a number of beasts, such as oxen or sheep—that were driven in a body. The person who drives a drove is called a drover. Eventually, drove came to mean a crowd or multitude of human beings, especially when moving in a body. In its latest incarnation, the driving force behind droves of shoppers is an impending holiday.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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