“Row”–defined by the OED as “a noisy or violent argument”–is a useful word, being roughly in the middle between “fight,” on the one hand, and “quarrel” or “argument,” on the other.

It is definitely a Britishism–or at least, has been one since about 1930, according to this Ngram viewer chart. (The OED‘s first citation is from 1746.) I searched for the phrase “had a row” to reduce other uses of the word.
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My sense is that in recent decades, “row” has generally been limited in the U.S., first, to pretentious people  and, second, to headline writers, based on another useful quality: its brevity. However, this sentence appeared recently in the text of a Wall Street Journal article, in reference to a Philadelphia woman: “Mrs. Stokes, 63, was arrested twice in 2008 and 2010 during rows with her now-estranged husband.”

I searched “had a row” on Google News and had to go back about 90 hits before I found one from an American source–a Chicago classical music website. But it turned out to be a quote from a British director. So for now, useful or not, “row” is still “on the radar.”

“In hospital”

Rose Jacobs, a colleague of mine at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Lingua Franca” blog, recently reported a use of “in hospital” on the public radio show “This American Life.” I’ve never come upon one myself, only “to hospital.” So I still count the expression as “On the radar.”

Rose also linked to an amusing New York Times column by Roger Cohen, an Englishman who, returning there after more than thirty years in the U.S., was reminded of the significant differences in language. He also found that British English had changed in his absence:

Somewhere in the interim the letter aitch had become “haitch,” with the result that spelling out my family name (surname) was painful. You had somehow morphed into the ghastly reflexive “yourself,” as in, “And for yourself?”

I had thought non-reflexive “yourself,” like “myself” (“Myself and Bill went to the movie”) was as American as it gets. Live and learn.


I was listening to the public radio show “The Takeaway” today. They had an interview with Thomas Kershaw, who for many years has owned the Boston bar after which the one in the TV show “Cheers” was modeled. Talking about the atmosphere in the city after the recent bombings, he said, “People have places they frequent, that they call their local.”

My ears perked up. This sounded like local in a very British sense, the one usually referred to as the local and defined by the OED as “the public house in the immediate neighborhood.” The dictionary quotes Germaine Greer: “Women don’t nip down to the local.”

After some looking around, I am going to label local as On the Radar. The only possible U.S. use I was able find about wasn’t about a bar at all. It was a March 2012 New York Times article that talked about how a man “came to own his local: the Mud, Sweat and Tears Pottery studio.”

But I bet local will eventually come into its own as a full-fledged NOOB. Probably in Brooklyn.