The fox-hunting-derived expression go to ground, covered here not long ago, came to mind this morning when I read something President Obama said in an interview with Fox News yesterday:
And, you know, we’ve seen some indications from the Russians as well as the Syrians today, uh, that they may be willing to look at the prospect of getting those weapons under control, perhaps even, uh, international control, and getting them out of there, where they could be vulnerable to use by anybody. And that’s something that we’re going to run to ground over the next couple of days.
(By the way, I assume the Fox intern who transcribed the interview got extra brownie points for ever “uh” he or she could stick in.)According to the OED, “run to ground” is a variant of “go to ground,” both meaning (literally) to burrow into a hole in the earth, or, figuratively, to withdraw from public view or lie low. Something or someone can also be run to the ground, meaning worn out through overuse. Obama seems to have meant something different, more like “explore in every possible way.”
As I noted last week in a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog Lingua Franca, one of the distressing aspects the current debate over intervention in Syria is the way it’s led metaphors to run amok, including “red line,” “boots on the ground,” and “shot across the bow.” Now we seem to have come to the stage where metaphors are given new meaning, just because they, uh, sound good.
(Thanks to Gigi Simeone. For previous discussion, go here.)
Wes Davis sends along this from today’s New York Times real estate section. I believe the bathroom in question would not actually be considered a W.C., owing to its non-closet-like largeness and the presence of a shower, but some journos will do anything to avoid using the same word twice:
The ever-observant Nancy Friedman notes the viral popularity of a commercial in which a girl dispenses advice about menstruation to the other kids at her summer camp and is dubbed the “Camp Gyno.” She also sends along the (American) Cosmopolitan cover headline below, and wonders, “is gyno [for "gynecologist"] the latest Britishism to cross the pond?”
It would appear so, at least a little bit. The word doesn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, and searching for it in Google and other databases is a bit chancey, since it is used in a variety of ways, in addition to the gynecologist abbreviation. That usage does appear to be of longer standing in the U.K. than the U.S., not surprising given the Brits’ fondness for such abbreviations as veg and cuppa.
But it has been gaining traction here for some time, or at least since 2007, the date of these citations:
From “Vibe Vixen” magazine: “At my gyno’s recommendation, I scheduled laser surgery to have the warts removed.”
From Don’t Sleep with a Bubba: Unless Your Eggs Are in Wheelchairs, by Susan Reinhardt: “Never wear C- or D-grade lingerie to the gyno because, chances are, when you wad up your clothes and place them on the chair, they’ll fall to the ground and the nurse will tell everyone in the office how hideous they were.”
Hard to argue with that.
Listening to a report on NPR the other day by the outstanding food correspondent Allison Aubrey, I heard her utter this sentence:
“It’s a high-protein corn that’s really different to what we’re accustomed to.”
That’s right, not different from or even different than, but different to. Years back, my friend David Friedman, a massive West Ham supporter, had told me this usage was prevalent in U.K. football commentary, and I’d been looking out for U.S. users. Aubrey was the first, so I revved up the databases and hunted for more.
Not much luck. There are plenty of different to‘s in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), but virtually all of them were either uttered by British-born speakers or writers, or were used in expressions like “it’s different to actually go there.” Going back to 2008, the one exception was this from the Denver Post in 2011: ”…the roughly $18 billion 2011-12 budget Republicans voted for is more similar than different to those that Democrat-controlled legislatures have written the past several years.” But it seems likely that the writer used to because of the need to work with the earlier word similar, which takes a to.
So I am going to categorize different to as a Doobious NOOB.
By the way, my search informed me that the British usage had been commented on by Americans for at least 140 years. One example among many was an article called ”Errors in the Use of Prepositions,” in an 1873 number of American Educational Monthly. The author, identified as “S.W.W.,” wrote:
English people make a sad mistake in saying “different to” for “ different from.” Here is an example from the London Times: “During Swift’s second residence with Sir William Temple, he had become acquainted with an inmate of Moor Park very different to the accomplished man to whose intellectual pleasures he so largely ministered.”
There must be something about American movie stars and British lingo. We just witnessed Mark Wahlberg going all NOOB-y. Now Anna Kendrick is quoted in GQ magazine about the horror of being approached for an autograph while shopping for underwear:
“There’s something deeply embarrassing about being approached when you’re holding knickers. And it’s happened TWICE!”
It’s enough to put your you-know-what in a twist.