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I'm sure this is silly and won't be terribly difficult to answer: can one climb atop a mountain or is it proper to say climb on top of. Or does it matter? I'm thinking the latter is correct.

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closed as general reference by Robusto, Mahnax, Kristina Lopez, John Lawler, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jan 4 '13 at 3:56

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It's versus, not verses. And it's pronounced with a final S, not a Z. And neither one of those is correct. On top of and atop both mean situated on the top, not moving up the slope. –  John Lawler Jan 4 '13 at 1:57
    
One can stand atop, or on top of, something, but not climb atop. –  Mark Beadles Jan 4 '13 at 2:57
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@Mark: Of course you can - 100 writers in Google Books say someone "climbed atop the wall", for example. Voting to reopen. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '13 at 23:58
    
@FumbleFingers Interesting, and given your evidence I must concur. Learn something new about this tongue of ours every day! –  Mark Beadles Jan 7 '13 at 0:24
    
@Mark: To be honest, I thought atop was a quaint/fading/poetic usage, but apparently it's new(ish) and particularly taking off in the US. Weird. –  FumbleFingers Jan 7 '13 at 3:15

2 Answers 2

I don't think you would do either of these to a mountain, you would simply climb a mountain. Otherwise, they're interchangeable but atop is less used. Humpty Dumpty might sit atop a wall, but most other people would sit on top of one.

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True, you wouldn't climb atop a mountain. But although I don't know exactly how he did it, Humpty Dumpty must have climbed atop the wall in order to sit on it. Unless he was lowered onto it by a crane. So far as I know, Lewis Carroll never actually told us how he got up there in the first place. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '13 at 3:12
    
Fair comment, though I was using it as an illustration that 'atop' is more whimsical –  Mynamite Jan 6 '13 at 23:18
    
Yeah - atop is definitely a bit dated/poetic. Not really in the "standard" spoken lexicon for many people - we mostly say on top of now. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '13 at 23:55

The standard idiom is that one climbs to the top of a mountain.

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True, you don't often climb atop a mountain - because it's just too big. But plenty of people have "climbed atop a table". I think it's inherent in climbing atop something that you get higher up and can thus see further. But I'm not sure climbers go up serious mountains for the view. –  FumbleFingers Jan 7 '13 at 0:11