Nicholas Thompson, "Terrible News About Carbon and Climage Change", The New Yorker 5/12/2013:
We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. Three-fifty was the old target; four-fifty is the new one. But what indication is there that we’ll stop at five hundred, six hundred, or even more?
The OED (in an entry not updated since 1899) calls hurtle, v. "Now only literary or arch.", giving the etymology as
apparently a diminutive and iterative of hurt v., in its original sense of ‘strike with a shock’.
One sense that remains active in contemporary journalistic use is "6. To dash, rush, hurry; esp. with noise", perhaps because of resonance with hurry and hurl. (Though the "with noise" part seems to have withered away…)
The half-dozen most recent uses in the NYT are:
Without any changes, over the next decade or so, the gross federal debt, now nearly $17 trillion, will hurtle toward $30 trillion and soar to 150 percent of gross domestic product from around 105 percent today.
At the precise millisecond the nut succumbs, the jaw muscles sense the yielding and reflexively let up. Without that reflex, the molars would continue to hurtle recklessly toward one another, now with no intact nut between.
You reach down and take a small hand, and joined, you hurtle toward the future.
It was one of the premier skiing venues in the nation in the 1930s and 1940s, drawing up to 5,000 people to watch top skiers like Dick Durrance hurtle past them on seven-foot-long wooden skis.
The combination is lethal, and as I hurtle toward the end of my 30s, my guilt has gone rogue.
But Mr. Obama’s effort to define success on his terms is coming up against two primary counterarguments as the White House and Congress hurtle toward the next budget showdown in coming weeks.
For most Americans, hurtle is pronounced exactly the same way as hurdle. And hurdle, in addition to being commoner than hurtle (about 7.69 per million for the "hurdle" and "hurdles" in COCA, compared to 0.60 for "hurtle" and "hurtles"), has the advantage of referring to a concrete type of object and a specific associated action.
This creates the perfect situation for eggcorn creation: a relatively rare and somewhat archaic word that is pronounced in just the same way as another word that is much more common in everyday usage, and has a clear meaning that overlaps at least metaphorically with most examples of the more unusual word.
If you hurtle through or towards something, you don't necessarily hurdle any obstacles — but if there were any obstacles in your way, you probably would hurdle them. And the idea of moving quickly without regard for obstacles is not a bad proxy for the usual uses of hurtle.
Given all this, it's surprising that hurdle for hurtle is apparently not very common — it's not in the Eggcorn Database, and news or book searches for some obvious cases (e.g. "hurdle recklessly" or "hurdle toward") don't turn up many relevant examples. But it's Out There:
From Financial World at some point in the 1950s:
For another — in electronics — we expect gross to hurdle upward 160% and net income to climb from 51 a share to around $1.30.
The seals lurk below and hurdle upward, crashing through the soft ice to snare a penguin.
A few examples from a Google News search:
The remaining survivors are huddled together on the titular train that hurdles through brutal landscapes of ice and endless snow.
“Someday girl, I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun,” Springsteen croons as the song hurdles toward its titanic finale, “But until then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”
One of New Jersey's most famous boardwalks, in Seaside Heights, is hurdling toward completion as well.
You can double jump, which sends your robot unicorn hurdling into the air while it expels a rainbow.
We're hurdling towards the end of the term and graduation.
After seeing 40 oz. glass bottles hurdling through the air, I wasn't surprised at the injuries we saw.
Her death again sent the home hurdling toward foreclosure and possible demolition.
The Eagles actually beat the Ravens last season in week 2, 24-23 to begin the season 2-0 before hurdling into the NFC East's abyss.
Hysterical! Screaming flower girl goes hurdling down the aisle. (link to video)
[h/t to Monte Davis]