What is the meaning of “to slur about”?

In Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question, I came across the following sentence:

He stirred his drink slowly with a glass rod, watching the cubes of ice slur clumsily about.

I do understand the meaning of “about” here (meaning roughly “here and there”), but I can’t find a meaning of “to slur” that fits in this context.

Does it mean to move? To melt? The meaning that I think fits the most is “To soil; to sully; to contaminate; to disgrace.” (because the drink is an alcoholic drink, so ice melting could be diluting the drink) but I’m not convinced.

Answer

I think most native speakers would say it’s a “creative” usage1 (perhaps also somewhat “metaphorical”). The allusion is to slurry = a semi-liquid mixture – which may or may not be etymologically related to slush (semi-frozen water+ice), but it’s certainly related semantically (and phonetically, along with words like sludge, sloppy, slippery).

Of course, since it’s a rather “literary” context, Asimov very likely also intended his readers to (perhaps below the level of conscious awareness) pick up on the secondary allusion to slurred words. Since slurred speech is the archetypal feature of inebriation, we might well suppose that the subject is morosely playing with his drink while out on a bender – so there’s a parallel between him getting sloshed = drunk and the ice-cubes in his drink sloshing about = swirling haphazardly (of a liquid).


1 In “normal” contexts, most native speakers would probably never use the “phrasal verb” collocation to slur about. The full OED does include the definition for slur (verb, 2.3) as To slide, slide about, but it was never common, and OED says it’s now dialectal. But that wouldn’t bother a consummate wordsmith like Asimov.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Teleporting Goat , Answer Author : FumbleFingers

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