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Sunday, November 15, 2009


Time magazine, June 25 1956; a quote from a colonial official in Lusaka - "You must be bloody well 'round the bend, old boy."
When did they drop the apostrophe from 'round?

OK, they haven't, entirely:from the web

1. "So, what's new this time round?"

Is the above proper English?
Can I use it in writing?

I see no problems with this usage, but be advised that in this usage, 'round is a contraction for around, so if you choose to use round, it should be preceeded with an apostrophe.

Odd. I would have sworn that that usage had simply evaporated. Not entirely, not in America, it seems. Though I suppose "this time around" is an idiom of its own, and may override the normal use.
Not so here, though, from -

'round: is this an abbreviation of "around"?
I'd be grateful if you could provide with usages.


4 months ago

Best Answer
Chosen by Asker
'round instead of around is really more of a speech issue. People often say round because the first "a" is dropped off the word when they speak, but you usually don't write 'round unless you're intentionally using slang.


"People around here are very nice"

"People 'round here are nice."

The meaning doesn't change. A lot of the times you just don't hear people pronouncing the first "a".

The best account comes from Separated by a Common Language.
Adverbial and prepositional round is far more common in BrE than in AmE. According to John Algeo's British or American English?, round is 40 times more common in BrE than AmE (in the Cambridge International Corpus). Though it might just be differences in lexicographical practice, Algeo also notes that (US) Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2003) lists 2 senses for prepositional round but 7 for around, whereas the (UK) New Oxford Dictionary of English lists 5 for around and 8 for round.

I searched for round the on the Guardian website and asked myself whether the examples I found would be round or around in my native dialect. Here are the results from the first two pages that didn't involve other Briticisms (otherwise I'd be typing explanations all day and night), repetition, compounding (e.g. a round-the-world ticket), or other disqualifiers:

1. Party round the world in 2007
2. Reading round the Christmas tree.
3. He's an expert guide, fluent in Italian, takes you round the museum
4. Pubs are to be allowed to stay open round the clock under plans for a radical overhaul of licensing laws
5. 'Listen: tinkering round the edges will change nothing'
6. On the way round the labyrinth, there are slits in the walls,
7. He has recently completed the last section of a walk round the M25 [a motorway/highway]

I'm fairly confident (though I must confess that I use a BrE-flavo(u)red round fairly often these days, and so may have lost my intuitions), that a typical AmE speaker would say around in all of these cases. The last seems to me the most natural with round, but perhaps some of you with more intact AmE intuitions will be better judges.

Using Fowler's as a guide, The Grammar Logs of the Capital Community College Foundation (Hartford, Connecticut) answers a query about round and around with:

In almost all situations, the words are interchangeable and you'll have to rely on your ear to come up with the word that sounds better. [I]n British English, there are several idiomatic expressions in which "round" is obligatory, but where "around" would work just fine in the U.S.A.: "winter comes round," "show me round," "he came round to see me." In the U.S., "around" is obligatory when you're using it to convey approximation: "He arrived around 4 p.m.," "Around two-thirds of the faculty will retire next year."

There are other idioms that must have one or the other in them--for instance to get around, meaning to go to/be in a lot of places (as in the Beach Boys song), needs around. But in the meaning 'to evade' (as in We got (a)round the security guard), BrE prefers round and AmE prefers around. Feel free to add your own examples in the comments!

An interesting example in the Guardian results was The speech heard 'round the world. Here the apostrophe seems to indicate the writer's feeling that round has been contracted from around--and probably the writer's feeling that round is a bit more informal. That was the only apostrophe'd one in the 20 I looked at. But is it round really a contraction of around? Maybe not. Around is a fairly recent addition to the language. The OED lists around as 'rare before 1600', and notes that it doesn't occur in the works of Shakespeare. Round goes back further, and Shakespeare used it in places where I would have said around (but he didn't ask me, did he?):

1602 SHAKES. Ham. III. ii. 165 Full thirtie times hath Phoebus Cart gon round Neptunes salt Wash.

So where did the a- come from? It could be on analogy with other a- prepositions like across and among. At any rate, the OED marks its fourth sense for around as an Americanism now, but perhaps not in the past or the future:

4. In U.S.: = ROUND. Perhaps orig. U.K. (cf. quot. 1816). Now coming back into British use under U.S. influence.

1816 JANE AUSTEN Emma I. x. 187 Emma..was beginning to think how she might draw back a little more, when they both looked around, and she was obliged to join them.

All this seems to indicate that apostrophes are unnecessary for 'round (at least in BrE), and that the perceived need to put them there may be analogous to 'til, which was till before it was until.

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