Friday 20 August 2010

Protest the Pope!

Benedict XVI and friend

Why are we (in the UK) being urged to "Protest the Pope!" instead of "Protest against the Pope!"?

We used to spark off a conflagration – now just just spark it. Why?

Have Americans decided to junk all prepositions? I know they’re scared of using a preposition to end a sentence with (sometimes it’s inelegant, but sometimes you have to). Losing the preposition may make for a neater look, but sometimes it changes the meaning. If you “cobble” something, are you cobbling it up (quickly constructing it out of spare parts) or cobbling it together (tying it together with odd bits of string, clothesline and elastic bands)?

Where will it all end (up)?

Lost Prepositions

appeal (against)
bail (out) (Her boyfriend recently bailed on her.)
block (from)
blot (out)
bolster (up)
brew (up)
buckle (under)
build (up)
buoy (up)
calm (down)
cancel (out) (If you just cancel, you break a date.)
cater (for) “contract ... to cater 55 Marine mess halls”
cave (in) (or, weirdly, “crater”)
check (in)
chicken (out) The film Marnie 1963: “You shouldn't have chickened.”
chill (out)
chuck (out)
clear (up) (clear the confusion)
clog (up)
cobble (together, up)
conjure (up)
cool (down)
crank (up) “The music is cranked.”
debate (with) “I have debated many graphologists...”
deprived (of)
disabused (of an idea)
escape (from) (Escape Alcatraz, Escape New York)
fit (in) (it fits with)
fizzle (out)
flail (around)
flash (up/at/past) “His idea flashed a year ago at Lord’s cricket ground...”
flashed up? flashed past? flashed at him?
freak (out)
gloss (over)
hang (out)
hang (up) my hat
hark (back)
intersect (with)
issue (with)
keep (on)
knock heads (together)
lag (behind) (if you lag something you wrap it in insulation)
larking (about)
lord (it) over
make (it) clear
map (out)
mill (around, about)
mull (over)
pep (up)
phase (in/out) “The proposal, thought to have been phased over many years...”
Guardian July 13, 2004
play (off) one against the other
present (with)
protest (against, about)
provide (with)
provide (with, for)
pumped (up)
rev (up)
round (up/down)
rub (up) the wrong way
settle (down/for less)
shoot (up)
shoot your mouth (off)
show (up)
shy (away) (never one to shy from the limelight)
sieze (up) (before the engine seizes on our first day's rummage)
sign (up)
skirt (around)
slag (off)
sort (out)
spark (off)
spruce (up)
spur (on)
steamed (up) (If you’re steamed up, you’re like a steamship ready to go; if you’re steamed, you’re like a Chinese dumpling)
stir (up) trouble, opinion, interest etc
stoke (up)
strike (up) friendship etc
sweep (across)
swerve (past, around) Obituaries swerved the issue of his sexuality (Guardian caption May 08)
toss (out) (Judge tosses main charge in Stewart case.)
trail (behind)
turn (out)
usher (in) (you can also usher people out)
vie (for)
vote (for) (To vote your choice in our online poll...)
wait (on) tables
warm (up)
wash (out) (It was a wash.)
weigh (up)
wrap (up)


  1. This is a great list, though there are many I don't recognise and I'd like to see evidence that it's an American phenomenon. We see it also in adjectives: a bad song isn't said to be "unlistenable to", just "unlistenable". But I don't think anyone talks of "listening" a song.

  2. Thanks! I like "unlistenable". And some places are just unliveable. I picked up most of these from American writers. And then there are those verbs which have acquired prepositions: save out, change out, prove out...