Murderers’ row

Murderers’ Row (Murderers’ is originally plural and possessive) was coined in 1918 to describe an especially intimidating section of the New York Yankees’ batting lineup, and it was reprised in the late 1920s to describe the lineup that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Today, murderers’ row is sometimes used for any exceptionally intimidating group of people or things. When the phrase refers to the classic Yankees’ team, the and are usually capitalized. Elsewhere, they are uncapitalized much of the time. The apostrophe is often omitted in recent use.

The phrase is of course primarily North American. The number of recent instances from outside North America is negligible, suggesting that the idiom is not well known elsewhere (correct us if we’re wrong). In the U.S., use of the phrase has remained steady since its peak in the time of the formidable Yankees lineup.

Examples

The network’s murderers row of crime procedurals delivered older viewers in droves again this season. [New York Times]

Not exactly murderer’s row, but of the eight, only Bradley is a belly putter. [National Post]

A murderers row of famous-for-Washington conservatives took turns denouncing the Democrats who had seized the White House. [Weekly Standard]

Come and greet the Murderers’ Row of multimedia software: iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, and iWeb, known collectively as iLife. [Macs for Dummies, Edward C. Baig]

Thanks to a murderers’ row of supporting players (Nick Offerman! Rob Riggle! Ice Cube!) and a clever portrayal of shifting high-school social strata, it ended up much funnier. [AV Club]

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