‘Around the nation?’

This morning, I heard somebody say something on the radio that’s been bugging me lately. If words are not your stock in trade, you probably haven’t noticed it. And I really don’t attach any importance to it beyond my passing curiosity regarding the way language develops.

Someone on the radio said that something was happening "around the nation." Sometimes you see or hear it as "around the country." I’ve seen it a lot in copy that I’ve edited over the last year or so. I always change it automatically to "across the country" or nation.

I do this for two reasons. First, "across" is the established idiomatic phrase (isn’t it? or did I dream that?). That’s the way one expresses that alternative to "nationally." Second, I just have trouble visualizing the newly trendy alternative. What does "around" the country mean? Does it refer to Canada, Mexico and the two oceans? Or is it a reference to the border and coastal states, leaving out the landlocked heartland? That’s what it sounds like, although I realize that’s not how it’s meant.

But "across the country" implies a quick, inclusive, coast-to-coast descriptive stroke that expresses what you’re trying to say without the mind having to stop and think about it.

Not that anyone thinks about it but me. And when I think about it, it’s for no more than a second, when I’m changing it and thinking "I wonder why he/she wrote it that way?" I guess today I just reached the point at which those seconds added up to a critical mass, and I decided to say something about it — which I just did.

4 thoughts on “‘Around the nation?’

  1. bud

    Brad, as I see it, language is an ever evolving thing. If it wasn’t we’d still be speaking latin. So whenever a particular phrase creeps into the vernacular it may sound out of place to those of us old enough to remember when, but over the course of time it becomes natural and accepted. Take the term “gay”. My mom was voted gayest in her high school graduating class. That meant of course that in 1946 she was a very happy and positive person. By the 1970s the gayest person would of course meant someone who has the greatest attraction to persons of the same sex. Today my kids refer to gay as something out of place or unnatural and not necessarily in a sexual way. They use the term all the time on things that, to me, make no sense. For example, the often refer to the Scion xB as “gay”. It sounds strange to me, but to them it’s completely normal. By 2046 their grandchildren might be voted “gayest” in their graduating class and they would be darn happy to accept the compliment.

  2. Mike Cakora

    I’m with Brad. Differences connote / convey subtleties. “Around town” means something different than “across town” does, but is close to “across the nation” in meaning. As for “around the nation,” that’s why we have guns and borders to keep those around out.
    I understand where bud is coming from, but we lose something when meanings change or subtleties are lost. I still cringe when someone says “I’m anxious about XYZ” when they look forward to XYZ because “anxious” used to mean “with anxiety.” In my heart I know that they really meant to say “eager” instead. Change is of course not all gay…
    BTW, bud, English is a West Germanic language, not descended from Latin like the Romance languages. English did get a healthy dose of vocabulary from Latin thanks to William the Conqueror and his fancy-pants nobility. Because of them we have hoity-toity words (beef, veal, pork, etc.) for the dinner table from French while the barnyard equivalents are Germanic (cow, calf, pig, usw.) in origin.

  3. weldon VII

    I don’t think “around” necessarily includes “outside” in its meaning, but it can.
    Some things are found around the house without being outside the house, but to ward off snakes, put sulfur around your house.
    Around the nation, grass roots movements sprang up, until one gigantic grass roots movement spread across the nation like a horde of locusts consuming a Kansas cornfield.
    What goes around comes around, even if it doesn’t come across.
    I disagree with Brad here. A thing can happen around the nation, meaning here and there, but pretty pervasively, without happening across the nation, meaning just about everywhere.

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