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13 April 2004 @ 16:29
Lurk on through  

Another tidbit from Language Log. Mark Liberman writes:

Fernando Pereira emailed to forward Leslie Kaelbling's observation of another apparently mixed-up headline in today's papers: "Hackers lurk through holes in hot spots". But Fernando points out that Google finds 1070 instances of "lurk through", and remarks "so much for our intuitions about 'lurk through'".

My first throught was that the cited headline is a malapropism for "leak through". After reading the story, I guess it's a sort of blend of "leak through" and "lurk throughout". Most of the google hits for "lurk through" seem to be genuine compositional uses of "lurk" and "through" (in the sense of "throughout", "along", "during" etc.).

Not only is lurk through not a malapropism, it's not even a neologism. The OED offers a delightfully alliterative example* from Piers Ploughman (1393), noting that lurk in this sense ('to move about in a secret and furtive manner') is "now rare."

Lyghtliche lyere lep a-way þennes,
Lorkynge þorw lanes

If you can lurk through lanes, you jolly well ought to be able to lurk through holes, too. And if William Langland could say it, then that ought to be good enough for prescriptivists with traditionalist metabolisms.

The OED, by the way, describes lurk in general as "now literary," a characterization that I think needs to be revised in view of the prevalence of lurkers in newsgroups and blogs.

*Come to think of it, Hackers lurk through holes in hot spots is a charmingly alliterative line of trochaic tetrameter (or terrameter?) in its own right. So whatever its faults (such as posting silly internet polls about preposterous constitutional amendments), USAToday does at least seem to employ a poet or two in its headline-writing department.

Nuværende humør: geekygeeky
-entangledbank on 13. April, 2004 15:42 (UTC)
Ooh, nice precedent. Lorkynge is a good word.