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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

3 Answers 3

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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I've heard a Kiwi use it. Sounds really weird to my Brit ears. – ukayer Jun 30 at 22:56
In New Zealand, it seems to be used in business but not colloquial contexts. People say it all the time at my work but I've never heard anyone say it in relation to say, organising a family outing or something. It's always something like "Dave is across the proposed changes to our contingency plan for the next quarter..." etc. – Sam Svenbjorgchristiensensen Oct 4 at 22:41

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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I think it's entered UK language as business jargon, like 'going forward' etc. My boss says it constantly and it annoys me immensely! Just say 'do you understand?' or 'do you have it covered?' FFS!!!!

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