leach » leech

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • Effloresence
    The process by which water leeches soluble salts out of concrete or mortar and deposits them on the surface. Also used as the name for these deposits. (HomesWEB Construction Glossary)
  • If blood pH is low (acid-like), then Calcium and Phosphorus will leech out of bone to neutralize acid and increase the pH. (link)
  • Apparently, the plastic contains a chemical that acts like a synthetic estrogen, and it leeches out easily into the liquid that the container holds. (Life to Date, blog entry, April 25, 2005)
  • There are an estimated 181,000 industrial waste sites, over 16,000 municipal landfills and 100,000 ruptured underground gasoline storage tanks in the United States that leech contaminants into our drinking water. (link)
  • So much so I have heard of old copper pipes leeching copper into the tap water and killing off corals and snails. (FishInTheNet forum, Mar 27, 2003)

Analyzed or reported by:

Just like the verb _wash_, _leach_ is semantically quite versatile: A contaminant can leach out of the soil (or into the water supply), the soil can leach a contaminant into the water, or water can leach a contaminant out of the soil. The substitution _leach»leech_ occurs for all three cases and is not uncommon.

There is probably an influence of _leech_ in peer-to-peer file sharing. The noun _leech_, metaphorically formed from the blood-sucking animal, designates someone who downloads other file sharers’ offerings without sharing their own files — a strategy that is used to avoid attracting attention of the police, if the file-sharing infringes copyright; in some countries, downloading is or used to be legal when uploading one’s own copyright-protected files isn’t. A verb _leech_ was formed, which is used more often intransitively (”He/she is leeching.”), but also occurs as a transitive verb (”I leeched the file from …”). With technologies that make asymmetric file-sharing impossible, _leech_ is used as an informal synonym of _download_.

In some examples where traditionally _leach_ would be expected, it is hard to tell if the underlying image is that of washing or sucking:

* It soon becomes obvious to the reader that the house is leeching the life out of its occupants, while in the process of revivifying itself. (Amazon customer review)
* Sven Birkerts believes that technology is leeching the spiritual out of human experience. (Wired Magazine, May 1995)

Similar in the example reported by Linda Seebach, from a column by George Will about the EU constitution:

* But whatever the reasons, the result will be salutary because the constitution would accelerate the leeching away of each nation’s sovereignty. (The text appeared in several publications, among others the _Wall Street Journal_ and the _Washington Post_, at the end of May 2005; other sites have quoted the relevant passage.)

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/10/07 |

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