Around the nation, or across it?

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Ladies and Gents, Laugh-In looks at the news!

— “Laugh-In”

Just a little verbal peeve I need to get off my chest.

This may be my imagination, but it seems to me that starting, I don’t know, maybe 10 years ago, I started seeing stuff like this:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans—who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago—also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Yes, as Slate, which called this passage from Politico to my attention, says, this is a billionaire comparing people concerned about income inequality to Nazis. I suppose. Frankly, I find what he’s saying a little hard to follow, based on that snippet.

But that’s not what I’m concerned about. I leave the class warfare to others. I’m bothered by that phrase, “around the country.” I suppose it’s pretty harmless, but it still bugs me that increasingly, it seems, people say it when they mean “across the country.”

“Around the country,” to me, suggests an area that runs along the inshore parts of the Atlantic from Maine to Florida, runs around Key West and comes up along the Gulf coastline to the southern tip of Texas, then up the Rio Grande and through the northern states of Mexico, runs up the Pacific past Seattle, then passes through the southern territories of Canada, back to Maine.

Whereas “across the country” involves the physical land mass of the country itself. New York, L.A., St. Louis, Kansas, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Wyoming, etc.

Yeah, I know we’ve always said “around town” and understood it to mean here and there within the town, and not just its perimeter.

And I also realize that “around the country” may be an attempt to say here, there, and everywhere in the country, rather than just hopping across the country from one coast to the other, leaving out “flyover country.” They’re trying to say that the country is more than just a straight axis drawn from one point to another. Or something.

But it still seems awkward to me, and almost as though it were something being said by a person whose first language isn’t American English. It’s not, to my ear, the accepted idiom. Or it wasn’t. That seems to have been changing lately.

Is this just me? Probably…

23 thoughts on “Around the nation, or across it?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    The sentence in question is: “In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said…”

    Maybe it’s the writer’s attempt to convey the idea that there might be wealthy precincts in the USA that were not interviewed. I can see how saying “around the nation” in reference to places means less than all of the places whereas saying “across the nation” would mean all of them. To give you an example of what my point is:

    1. I’ve talked to lawyers around Richland County, and they love Brad’s blog.
    2. I’ve talked to lawyers across Richland County, and they love Brad’s blog.

    To my ear, the second sentence sounds like I’ve talked to more lawyers.

    To be clear, you’re still OK with “around the world” and “across the universe” though, right?

  2. Karen Pearson

    Given the standards of grammar and usage that I see today, I have comparatively little argument with either usage.

  3. Doug Ross

    I’m glad Nate Silver’s new re-launched has taken on the challenge of “data is” versus “data are”. I think “data are” sounds wrong even if it is “right”. (Just like that period I put OUTSIDE the quotes there).

    He put it to a vote on Twitter and the response was 2:1 in favor of “data is” – this is great progress in grammar!

        1. Doug Ross

          Sorry, but we shant be using “data are” like thou wouldst want us to.

          The poll data IS enough evidence they needed…

          I work with data every day… and it IS what it IS.

          1. Bart

            I think Bill Clinton cleared it up very well, don’t you? So, depending on which tense one uses the term, “data is” vs. “date are”, is the determining factor based on Slick Willy’s explanation. And Monica will agree!!

            “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement….Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            But it IS a bunch of things. A datum is a single point of fact — say, the height of one of the basketball players in the NBA. But if you construct a database of all the heights and weights and shooting percentages of every player in the league, you’re looking at data, the plural of datum.

            You may be looking at a single dataBASE, and you can refer to that as singular. But it is composed of multiple data.

            And bless you, Bryan Caskey. It is indeed not a matter of opinion.

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            This morning, I was jarred by this Tweet:

            Data helps me build better products. How does data help you?

            Now I’ll confess that I see it wrong so often that I read right over “Data helps” before coming to a screeching halt on “How does data…”

            But the fact that I let it go for a second doesn’t make it right…

  4. Karen Pearson

    My worst problem with the sentence in question is the use of the word “denizens.” I realize that it is acceptable usage, but when I see the word the image of a shark comes to mind. I trust that the author of the sentence did not intend to evoke that sort of imagery.

  5. Karen Pearson

    But also maybe an association with mobs, pool sharks, and similar ‘not nice’ types. I don’t remember where that association comes from, though.


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