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I have only recently encountered "to be across", meaning "to understand fully". I have long been familiar with "to get across", of course.

It seems to be the recipient that corresponds to the giver of understanding (and it seems odd now that I think of it that "get" is the giver).

Is there a geographical or cultural context for the former that might explain why I have never heard it until now and why it has sounds odd to me?

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I've never heard that phrase before either, and I agree, it sounds very odd. –  p.s.w.g Aug 12 '13 at 20:32
Can you give a sentence to show how this is used? –  Mynamite Aug 12 '13 at 20:44
@Mynamite It's in the linked document: "the legislation is mind-bogglingly complex and you really need to be across it". –  p.s.w.g Aug 12 '13 at 21:11
In the ODO entry linked from the question, the expression appears only in the British & World English entry, and not in the US English entry, but (as a Brit.) I've never 'come across' it. –  TrevorD Aug 12 '13 at 22:55
@p.s.w.g Thanks! - sorry, should have noticed that. Unfortunately it does me no good, I have never heard this expression. –  Mynamite Aug 13 '13 at 8:49

2 Answers 2

The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms defines "to be across something" as

fully understand the details or complexity of an issue or situation

and lists its origin as Australian.

I read it to mean that your mind fully spans or encompasses the details and ramifications of an issue, but the phrasing does have an Aussie flavor to it.

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Never heard that stateside. And I've met a lot of Aussies/Brits in NY... as well as a lot of ESL learners who masterfully learned British English. If you were to tell me you were across something, I would probably be very confused and think of you somehow splayed across it.

However, to be all over something (say, a project) or on top of something (prep work; training; reading; subject matter)... or up on (up to date with the state of affairs regarding) some subject matter, are all similar. So I would probably ask you to clarify.

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