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12 Comments

  • Great post and I agree, far more interesting than all the trendy new lexical coinages.

    I have to admit, it felt like quite a familiar usage to me and I was surprised to hear you couldn’t find corpus evidence for it. Gauntlet thrown down, I couldn’t resist looking for myself (isn’t the internet so wonderfully distracting?). I just searched one corpus and found at least 16 examples. After an initial search that was far too wide, I looked for ‘be’+’across’. Quite a few examples seem to come from politics – “be across the issues”, “be across your brief”, etc.

    Then, still surprised it hadn’t been picked up on before, I checked the Oxford Dictionary of English and it has it in as a phrase: “be (get) across something – fully understand all the details of an issue or situation”.

    Now I’m feeling a bit of a saddo for getting caught up in a single usage of a single little word for more than half an hour, but I guess that’s what’s so great about language!

  • Fascinating stuff. I have never heard this use of “across” in the US. Instead, we say, “all over it.” Example: “Helen, we forgot the fairly traded party sized instant barbecue for the party!” “Oh, no worries, I’m all over it.” (Meaning that the second speaker is on her way to the store as she speaks.)

  • As a Canadian, I’d be more likely to say “he’s all over that issue” or “she’s got it covered”. This would seem to be a similar concept.

  • I think this has long been an ongoing tendency in the English language to use prepositions this way. This tendency just grabs more and more prepositions. This demonstarates the language development, and in a way its tendency to shortened utterances. Well, prepositions are perfect for that.

  • That’s very interesting Gill, thank you. I’ve only occasionally heard ‘across’ used like that, maybe they’ve slipped me by, but I’ll keep tuned for them and other similars. I get a very physical image with these: being ‘all over’ and ‘around’ issues comes to me with an enfolding encompassing feel, it’s like giving the issue a big hug and saying ‘there there I’m looking after you’; ‘across’ shows a bit more mastery, and ‘astride’ is complete dominance (aptly illustrated by the bike rider). Such nuance in the little words.

  • Thanks for the comments about ‘all over it’, etc. Watch this space!

    Julie: Thanks for your comments, and congratulations on finding corpus evidence for ‘be across’ – which corpus was it? I looked at ukWac (1.3 billion words), WebCorp, and several smaller corpora. Obviously I didn’t look hard enough! I bet there are some lines in ukWaC somewhere, lurking. I should have found the Collins definition though – mea culpa.

  • Thanks for your post of “across”. I am now across usual words in unusual ways (context).

  • Let me get it across to you that I intend to be across it later. I can manage because being across to something is to imply that not only am I totally spread-eagled but can catch it too.
    “I’m across it now.”, sounds to me like I’m over it, but I’m not so sure. I appear to becoming dizzy.

    Ceorl

  • I’d never heard this until it came up in an e-mail a few weeks ago in the office. Several of us laughed quite a lot over it. Now we mainly use “across this” in order to denote someone who uses too much trendy management-speak, or ironically to denote the fact that we don’t know anything about something but want to bamboozle people with newspeak (as in “quantum mechanics? Oh yeah, I’m so like totally across that”).

  • Jon S: Thank you – this made me laugh. We fancy that so long as we are somehow language-aware, we can use ‘across’ or ‘a heads down’ or ‘as a team, going forward’ as productive in-jokes. Someone told me recently that she can say ‘let’s diarise that’ with impunity, because she does it with the appropriate degree of post-modernist irony. And why not? ‘Corporate speak’ is fun to subvert, precisely because some people use it with deadly seriousness..