Learn English – Why do we use the phrase ‘Across the pond’


Why do we use the phrase Across the pond to refer to the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean? Considering the size of the Atlantic Ocean is vast, is it suggesting the ocean is only a small hindrance? Considering that in the modern world it has become easier to communicate and travel?

Best Answer

I feel that the aspect "the world is smaller now" is really not that relevant: indeed, the phrase is far too old for that to be the case.

Rather, it's a perfect example of typical understated, dry, English humour.

I'm afraid I don't know about earliest usage although PHenry mentioned it could have been used as early as the 1800s. In that era, the "Sun never set on the British empire." Britain was the biggest-ever world empire: indeed, that was largely based on naval power. So in the 1800s, you can see that because of extreme British naval power - combined with the typical British gift for understatement - it would be natural to refer to the Atlantic as merely a silly pond.

Note: as John below points out, this phrase is certainly used in both the USA and in the UK. (It's used on both sides of the pond.) It originated in the UK: I would suggest in the USA the phrase is used mainly on the East Coast (New York City and so on).

The phrase is dropping out of use in the UK, so it sounds a hair archaic. Indeed, generally the idea of being a "witty understated Englishman" is something that belongs more to older people there; the yoof have Snapchat.

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